Ch-Ch-Ch-Chowder

Soup is souper… er.. super.

If it wouldn’t cause 3rd degree burns (not you gazpacho), I’d be a great alternative to water in a swimming pool. Ok, maybe not. But still, there’s something soothing about soaking away your stresses in the steaming hot spoonfuls of the perfect potion.

The liquid itself comforts your throat. The steam softens your skin and might just open your sinuses.

Don’t get me wrong. In the middle of June I would crank open a can of anything hot. This time of year, though, I crave it.

I love the chicken tortilla soup at McAlister’s and the poblano corn chowder at Jason’s Deli.

If I can find a local joint with homemade soup, I’ll order it and possibly eat the bowl, too.

It’s easy to have at home. And you don’t even need the can opener.

You can make your own base with chicken parts and vegetable or you can take a shortcut and start with store-bought broth, the unsalted kind.

Stock tends to be a plain base that’s not edible by itself. You cook water, chicken bones, and veggies to combine their flavors. To make a broth, you’d do all of that with the addition of actual meat and seasonings. That’s why we like broth – it’s ready to go. You could heat it up and go to town with a spoon, but it’s more fun to add stuff – right?

I’m also a huge fan of cream-based soups and chowders. I LOVE potato soup, especially when it’s wearing a hat made from cheese, bacon, and scallions.

New England clam chowder (creamy, not red) is something I can remember eating when I was little, thanks to my dad. He loves it. I’d crush up as many crackers as I could fit in the bowl (or cup) and then dive in, spoon first.

The problem with those concoctions is that they’re nothing but fat. Heavy cream makes the chowder, chowder. Well that, and the thickness you get from the crushed crackers.

To rival the poblano corn chowder mentioned above, and to make up for the fact that Jason’s Deli doesn’t seem to have it anymore, I decided to make my own.

I started off by kicking myself for not stocking up on locally grown corn over the Summer. I could’ve had a freezer-full, but I don’t. So I went for the next best thing, frozen corn. It hits the freezer at its peak – so it’s has the freshness and the sweetness you’d expect.

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Here’s what you need:

2 16 oz. bags of frozen sweet corn
1 sweet onion, diced
1 tbs butter (I use unsalted)
1 large potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 gloves of carlic, peeled and chopped
32 oz. unsalted chicken broth (I like Kitchen Basics)
2 poblano peppers
1/2 cup of milk (I used 2%)
1 tbs garlic powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tbs brown sugar

Deal with the poblanos, first.

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These are the peppers used for chile rellenos in Mexican restaurants. They’re spicy, but won’t paralyze your tongue and everything around it. Keep in mind though, the level of heat can vary – so you might get a scorcher. The peppers pair nicely with the sweetness of the chowder.

Put the peppers on your highest oven rack and turn on the broiler. Let them go until the skin starts to blacken and bubble. Rotate to make sure each side gets charred. I used the longest set of tongs I have.

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Once the peppers are charred, immediately put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

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Let them steam for about 10 minutes, then use your fingers to peel off the charred skin.

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You’re left with a tender pepper. Remove the seeds, unless you want extra heat, then dice the meat of the pepper. You can skip all this and use 2 cans of drained chiles, but it won’t be as good. Promise.

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In a pot, melt the butter and add the onion. Let it cook for a few minutes until it softens. Add the garlic. As soon as you smell the garlic, pour in your broth. Add your potato, and 3 BIG pinches of salt. Remember, the broth and the butter are unsalted and the potato is P-L-A-I-N. Stir.

I cut the potato small because it’ll cook faster that way. I cooked the spud in the broth to enhance the flavor, and let some of the starches start thickening the base.

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Bring this mixture to a boil and let it boil for 10 minutes. Test your biggest piece of potato. If it’s soft, rock on.

Reduce the heat, and add 1 bag of the corn, the spices, sugar, and another big pinch of salt. Stir.

At this point, I plugged in my immersion blender, which is fancy for “blender on a stick”.

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I blended everything to pulp. It’ll be nice and thick, but still have a liquidy consistency.

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Add in the other bag of corn, the poblanos, and the milk. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Stir often. Add 2 more pinches of salt, and a few cracks of black pepper. Taste it. If it needs more salt, go for it.

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This technically isn’t a chowder. That’s because there isn’t any cream in it. But, it’s still creamy – thanks to a bit of low-fat milk and the blended-up potato and corn. Call it a choup – if you must.

This has texture. It has flavor, and heat that radiates down the back of your throat.

I topped mine with Parmesan cheese. You could also top it with popcorn or crumbled corn chips.

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My partner in cuisine crime wanted corn muffins, and this chowder really did beg for them.

I followed a recipe for honey corn muffins by The Neely’s on the Food Network. The muffin with dense, but super sweet. It crubled apart perfectly. The honey (I used some from the Farmer’s Market) made for somewhat crispy top, and that was to-die-for.

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Make this a souper winter. Put your slow cooker to use, if you want. Just do it. You won’t regret it. And hey, you can freeze what you don’t eat. That’ll beat a can anyday.

Tip: To get creaminess without using heavy cream, try corn starch. Dissolve some (about a tablespoon, maybe more if you’re making a lot) in a bit of water to make a paste. Then add it to your mixture. Boil, and stir the whole time. It’ll thicken. If it’s still not thick enough… make another paste and add it. Heat makes it work – so you want to boil whatever you’re making. That’ll also help do away with any starchy-taste. Don’t just add the corn starch to your mixture – it’ll clump and be gross. Make sure you dissolve it in liquid first.

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