March 1, 2011
Even though the groundhog predicts that winter is almost over, it’s still cool enough outside to enjoy a bowl of hot soup or chowder. After a day of clearing away garden debris that I did not get around to before winter set in, I am chilled to the bone, even if it’s a mild day. Lingering dampness and the cold hard earth I have been turning to ready the garden for spring make me long for something that will warm the insides.
Corn chowder is a favorite at our house. I learned to make it by watching my mother. Over the years, I have tweaked the recipe a bit. Each time I make corn chowder, I am reminded of her cooking a pot of it to feed the “gardeners” who had been grubbing around in the dirt, raking leaves or doing any other yard chore in cold weather.
This recipe uses things you already have in the pantry such as canned chicken broth, creamed corn, potatoes, leeks or some other member of the onion family, a little bacon and milk or cream. Milk and potatoes are the principal ingredients of all chowder recipes. I like leeks, because the useable green tops give the soup a splash of bright color. (Shallots, scallions or whatever onion you keep on hand for general use will do fine.) Red onion would be colorful, but since it is hotter to the taste, I haven’t tried that kind.
Any kind of artisan bread or your favorite crackers will go well with the chowder. Mom often made cheese biscuits to go with this soup. She didn’t have a recipe, but added finely grated cheese to her basic buttermilk biscuit recipe. Perhaps that’s why when I opt for crackers, I serve sliced cheddar cheese, too. I wonder if we are the only family that likes cheese and crackers with soup. Adding a green salad and dessert makes this a complete meal.
6-8 strips of smoked bacon, fried crisp and roughly chopped
½ cup thinly sliced leeks (include some of the useable green tops)
6-8 cups chicken broth (a 48-ounce can is six cups and you can add two cups of water)
6-8 red skin potatoes cut in cubes
2 cans cream of corn
milk or cream to taste, start with ¼ cup cream or a ½ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
Fry bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Set aside to cool. In a stock pot or Dutch oven, wilt the leeks in ¼ cup of water. You can add a teaspoon of bacon drippings if you like and use less salt later. Add chicken broth and water and turn the heat to high. When it begins to simmer, add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Add corn and reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender. Add your choice of milk or cream until the chowder boils and taste. I adjust the amount of milk or cream depending on the preferences of whomever I will be sharing the chowder with. Add the chopped bacon. Correct seasonings and serve hot. Serves four as a main course.