Friday, September 4, 2009

Corn & Chicken Chowder

This is my the first soup of the season and I'm not sad to see the our weekly menus turning toward Fall dishes. After I left my last kitchen job I had to take some time away from soup (I still have mild PTSD around Butternut Squash thanks to that mole soup I made once a week at Essential), but I'm slowly re-learning all my old favorite recipes. I remember now that the reason I was (mostly) a soup chef for 4 years was that I love soup - the comforting warmth of it, the fact that it takes a little set up, but then is mostly left alone, and I also just love things served in a bowl.
This Fall I hope to post Pork Posole (both the long way and a quick variation), a Portuguese sausage and Kale soup that's so good, two kinds of Chili, Rosemary and White Bean soup in the slow cooker, just to name a few. I'd love to hear your favorite soup ideas.
If you're doing corn and chicken at a late Summer barbecue, cook a little extra so that you can use the leftovers for this chowder.

Corn and Chicken Chowder
serves 4 to 6

1 yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1 T cumin
1 T oregano
1 t dried sage (or a few fresh leaves)
1 t mustard powder
2 bay leaves
smidge of cinnamon
smidge of cayenne
8 cups stock (or enough stock base to make that)
2 pounds chicken (cooked and cubed)
6 ears of corn, cooked (or 2-3 cans)
2 fresh jalapenos
2 russet potatoes, cut bite-sized (I like skin on)
8 shakes hot sauce
6 T each of butter and flour
2 cups cream
  • Like just about every recipe I know, start by sauteing the onions in a little oil until they're just starting to brown. Then add the garlic and saute until it just starts to brown.
  • Add the spices (except the oregano) and let them toast for just a minute or two.
  • Add the oregano, stock, corn that's been cut from the cobs, the cobs too(!!), potatoes, chicken, and jalapenos.
  • Allow this to simmer (not boil) for about an hour. Give it a stir from time to time to make sure it doesn't stick. Add more stock if you need to.
  • Remove the corn cobs and add the hot sauce.
Now we're going to make a roux to thicken the soup. Don't be afraid. Just read this through first and if you haven't made a roux before have someone there to help pour the liquid for you because that's the scary part.
  • Melt the butter in a frying pan (best if it's not non-stick) over medium-low heat.When it is bubbling, have a whisk and a ladle ready.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the butter while whisking. Keep the butter and flour moving (but you don't need to go too crazy) and you should notice the color start to lightly brown. The mixture should also be bubbling. If you were making gravy you'd keeping going until the flour was dark brown, but this is for chowder so you just want a light brown.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream in a steady stream (not a dump or you might get lumps) while whisking vigorously (now you can go crazy). Add a couple of ladles of the broth from the soup so that the roux stays smooth.
  • Add this roux, cream, and broth back into the soup and stir well.
  • Adjust the salt and pepper.
  • Try adding a little lime or cooking the onions with bacon and bacon fat.
Here's a quick summary of my tricks for soup:
-use more spices than you think you should,
-sneak in some mustard powder (it's often the secret something that makes my soups flavorful and I don't even really like mustard!),
-use a stock paste instead of liquid stock (like Better Than Bouillon) because then you can control the stockiness and also because a lot of liquid stocks taste too much like carrots or celery or fake things,
-add tough and sharp things (meats, fresh sage, beans, onions) in the beginning so they can mellow, add soft things (basil, soft veggies, dairy) at the end so you don't end up with mush.

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