Chowda

My brother inspires me in lots of ways, and lately it’s most often been in the way of dinner.  His patience in the kitchen far exceeds mine (though he may never admit it!), and his audience is arguably a bit easier to please than mine — but when he mentioned corn chowder the other day, I knew on the spot that I had to make it.

My criteria for soup:  

  1. It must be cold outside.
  2. The soup must be hearty (i.e., contain lots of veggies so I don’t feel the need to make anything else).
  3. There must be a likelihood that my kids will eat it.  Or at least dunk their bread in it.

Bonus points if I get to use my immersion blender.

So, that corn chowder?  Check, check, check, and bonus points!

Stealing Borrowing Bro’s foundation for the soup, I browned some chopped bacon pieces.  Removed those and used the rendered fat to sauté about half an onion; then threw in some carrots and a lone parsnip (have no idea how long that thing had been in the veggie drawer…) and let those soften a few minutes.  Next, added cubed potatoes and a little diced red pepper. 

Sprinkled S&P and thyme, gave everything a toss and then poured on some stock, brought it to a simmer, and let it work for about 15-20 minutes, or the equivalent of a shared beer and conversation with The Husband.  Once the bottle was empty, I added some flash-frozen, divine Iowa sweet corn and let it heat through.  Finally, about a cup–give or take–of half and half, set just below a simmer for a few minutes, and the soup was ready to yield to Magic,aka my beloved immersion blender.  I first tried blending some right in the soup pot but didn’t like the texture that was producing.  So I ladled some of the soup into a separate vessel, pureed it and stirred it back into the soup.

I topped each serving with a little of the bacon and a slice of crusty bread alongside. 

It met with rave reviews The Husband and The Boy, and they each cleaned their bowls.  It was okay but not what I’d tasted in my mind (I ate the leftovers for the following two days so it obviously wasn’t that bad, but aren’t we all our own biggest critics?).  It was too sweet for a soup and the texture was crumbly rather than a smooth backdrop with good-sized pieces of veggies for heartiness and texture.

I’ll make it again, but I’d do the following differently:

  • Forgo the carrots.  The contributed to the sweetness (did I mention that my flash-frozen corn was crazy sweet?!  we’re talking picked-at-the-peak-of-freshness-last-summer kind of sweet…) and their flavor was too much for what I wanted. 
  • Why did I add the red pepper?  I don’t know but I almost immediately wished I hadn’t.  Combined with the carrots, it gave an “off” color to the soup and added a not-entirely-pleasant taste dimension.
  • Add less liquid.  Use just enough stock to cover the potatoes.
  • Simmer the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the cube, of course.  I let mine go too long and the potatoes were softer than I would have liked.
  • Lastly, before adding the corn, I’d remove half the boiled potato mixture and blend that up.  Then stir it back in, along with the corn and some cream/half and half.

Aah, so there’s some unintended kitchen camaraderie across the miles.  It’s funny to me that this feels a bit like a back-and-forth exchange between squabbling siblings, even though it’s totally not.  It’s just proof to me that I can and do learn from my little brother, despite my thinking from a young age that I knew everything. 😉

Potato soup, sans potatoes

Well, not really “sans.” But there certainly were not enough potatoes to warrant it being called “Potato” Soup. 

I’d dreamt of it all day:  rich and creamy mashed Yukons, half and half, warm, mmmm.  I was even going to break out The Bacon.  And I still had leftover ham from Christmas.  In efforts to be as bold in the kitchen as my brother, I was even planning to puree that ham!  It all came together in my head–I could practically taste that cream, salty, smoky bowl of heavenly potato soup….

And then.  Then I get home, start pulling stuff out of the fridge and cupboards, open the cupboard to grab the potatoes and am hit with a sense of dread.  Oh, no I didn’t, did I?  Did I really use all of the potatoes last time I reached into this cupboard??  Please, no, tell me my memory is failing me!…

Sho ’nuff.  All I find are two rinky dink Yukon golds.  Two.  Even Jesus may have had trouble making those two potatoes serve my small crowd.

Alright, time to improvise.  I have a large stalk of broccoli, about 7 pounds of carrots, and cheese.  Got it!  California medley-ish soup with the pureed potato/bacon/broth concoction as the thickener.  And cheese.  Ready, set, go.

Cooked The Bacon in a bit of oil.  (Why?!  I dunno…)  Removed the slices, then sauteed some onion, celery, garlic.  Added potatoes, tossed ’em around.  Added stock, boiled till taters were tender.  Removed that lovely concoction and let it cool a bit.

Added more stock to the pan, along with some sliced carrots.  Boiled a bit, then added the chopped broccoli (wished later that I’d chopped it smaller–now I know). 

Pureed the potato concoction, along some ham.

Stirred the veggies and stock.  Panicked a bit when I realized and yelped, “I forgot to add The Bacon!”  Husband graciously volunteered to run the boat motor and puree The Bacon into the Potato Stuff.

Stirred the Stuff into the veggies.  Wasn’t the consistency I was aiming for so added a little slurry.  Meh, close but not there.  But didn’t care so much because by now we were all starving.  Added some shredded cheddar and a bit of parsley.

O.M.G.  Veggies–they were the centerpiece and made it seem so much more wholesome and not totally a dinner indulgence.  Creamy–even the two rinky dink potatoes made their special contribution. Smoky– The Bacon added an irreplaceable dimension. 

I would totally make this again.

You know, if it were possible to recreate something you totally made up on the fly and have it taste the same a second time around.