"Corn is almost gone for the year and it's cooling down outside—perfect timing for a spicy corn chowder that can make you break into a hot sweat." —Rachael Ray
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leek, shallots, garlic, potatoes, jalapeños, paprika, chile powder, ground mustard, and bay leaves; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot, leaving the lid ajar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for a minute to coat. Whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the corn, hot sauce, and Worcestershire. Cover; simmer until the chowder thickens, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the half-and half and cheese, if using. Stir until the cheese melts. Discard the bay leaves.
Serve the chowder in shallow bowls with your choice of toppings.
Note: For a meatier option, top the chowder with crispy bacon or browned Mexican chorizo crumbles. Or add crabmeat and diced avocado for a cool balance to the spicy soup.