With Thanksgiving behind us, we head into the typically hectic Christmas season…when you need some comfort foods.  Soups are such a wonderful, winter comfort food…they’re simple, inexpensive, can conveniently be prepared ahead, and can be eaten in shifts if you’re family’s coming and going.

Before Thanksgiving I posted one of our family’s favorite soups–Pasta and Potatoes. Today I’ll introduce you to Potato Corn Chowder.

The recipe for this hearty soup evolved as I experimented with several variations this fall, and found that there are really numerous options so you can make it as you would like it.

  • Want it with some meat? A bit more flavor? Add ham or bacon.
  • Want to be purely vegetarian? Leave out the ham or bacon.
  • Feel the need to get a little more protein in your meal? Add some quinoa and/or red lentils to complement the corn (a whole grain).
  • For the liquid I chose to use milk because this also complements the grain to make a complete protein. But if you are allergic to milk, you could easily use vegetable broth or soy milk.
  • Don’t like (or have on hand) one of my basic ingredients: celery, onion or carrots? Just increase the amount of the ingredients you do have available.
  • Want something a bit exotic, replace the onions with leeks or the celery with fennel. You’ll get completely different undertones in flavor.

At first glance someone might think of Potato Corn Chowder as being “just carbs”, but there are definitely ways to make this a nutritious dish. And I’m pretty sure this is a kid-friendly dish. At least it has all of the components my kids used to enjoy.

I begin by peeling and dicing 4-5 large potatoes–you want about 4 C. of diced potatoes. I cover them with cold salted water and bring them to a boil, simmering until tender.

While they’re boiling, I begin to brown some diced, cooked ham in a little oil. If you had a ham bone on hand, that would be good too, to give it a good ham flavor.

When I previously made this soup with bacon, I didn’t need any oil, of course, and I removed the bacon after it was crispy to add at the end of the cooking time, and I poured off all but 1-2 T. of the bacon fat before adding the next other ingredients.

Next I added the three “base players” in homemade soup: carrots, celery, and onion:

You’ll see these three ingredients often in my soups…they add fiber, color, vitamins, and natural flavor. I know some people don’t keep celery on hand–or can’t get it where they live. Chopped, fresh parsley, or even diced fennel, can replace the celery flavor in a soup.

Since this time I’m making the soup with diced ham, I just put them in the pot on top of the browned ham…and cook them for a few minutes until the onions were translucent and beginning to get tender.

Are you familiar with my chart which shows how to make complementary complete proteins? If not, check it out! It’s very helpful in learning how to eat healthier meals, and especially how to pair carbs so you get a higher ratio of protein. For instance, since I’m making corn chowder, and corn is a whole grain, I’ve decided to add some red lentils (legume)…

…these will virtually dissolve as they cook so they aren’t recognizable as lentils but just help to thicken the broth and complete the protein in the whole grain. I’m also going to add 1/2 C. quinoa, which has been rinsed in cold water to remove bitterness…

If you’re not familiar with quinoa [KEEN-wah] , it is a source of complete protein, which is rare among plant foods. Its origins are in Central and South America but it is quite readily available in grocery stores in Europe and North America. It can be cooked up like rice but offers more nutrition, which is why I’m adding it to my chowder.

You don’t have to add lentils OR quinoa…I’m just showing you some options. You might consider adding just the lentils, and add a bit more than I did. Or just the quinoa. Or neither! Of course if you add neither, your soup will be a bit thinner and you may want to thicken it with more mashed potatoes or a roux or slurry.

I added a few cups of vegetable (or chicken) broth, put the lid on and brought it to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remember those diced potatoes I was cooking in a separate pot? I didn’t forget them! Now’s the time to drain them. I cook them separately for two reasons. First, I want to throw out the starch, as I’m trying to make this a more nutritional rendition of chowder. Secondly, I want to mash about half of the potatoes to help thicken up my soup.  I just used a fork to mash half of the diced potatoes against the sides of the pan. You can also use a potato masher, of course.

They don’t have to be completely smooth…just mashed up so that when they’re added to the soup, they thicken the broth…

Another way I’m going to thicken up the soup is by pureeing some of my corn. I added two cans of corn, and one of them I pureed in my food processor so it was creamier…

So now I add the mashed up potatoes…the pureed corn…and a can of whole kernel corn…to my cooked quinoa, lentils, veggies and ham…

I pour in some milk…this also complements the whole grain to make a complete protein…

I stir it all up…bring it to a boil, Then I add the diced, boiled potatoes which I set aside and didn’t mash…

Mmmm…mmm…. It’s starting to look like chowder! Now everything just has to come to a boil, and then we ladle it into bowls and enjoy!

If you like, serve some whole grain bread alongside, or some crackers and cheese. This makes a nice, big batch so you’ll be all set for a couple of meals this week, unless you have a big family. I froze one or two containers of it to eat later..don’t you love having something to grab out of your freezer for a quick supper on a hectic day?

Enjoy!

Ciao!

Debbie

Potato Corn Chowder

Yield: Serves 6-8

Potato Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 3-4 large potatoes (4 C. peeled and diced; abount 1 1/2 lbs./750 g)
  • 1/4-1/2 lb./250 g bacon, ham or pancetta (optional)
  • 2 T. oil or bacon fat
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 C. vegetable or chicken broth (or bouillon)
  • 1/2 C. small red lentils (optional)
  • 1/2 C. quinoa, rinsed in cold water
  • 2 C. creamed corn (or process whole corn in a food processor)
  • 2 C. whole kernel corn
  • 3-4 C. milk (whole, low fat or evaporated milk, or soy milk)

Instructions

  1. Bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Simmer until tender.
  2. Meanwhile in a separate large pan, brown the bacon or pancetta lightly and pour off excess fat except for about 1-2 T. (If using ham, fry it up a bit in 2 T. oil, to brown it lightly.)
  3. Add diced onions, carrots and celery to the pan and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Then add the broth.
  4. To add more protein to the soup, you may add small, red lentils and/or quinoa. Either of these will dissolve into the broth as they cook and won't really be visible, but help to thicken the broth. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until everything is tender.
  5. Now add the creamed corn and whole, kernel corn, and 3 C. of milk, as well as half of the diced, cooked potatoes. Mash the remaining half of the potatoes with a fork or potato masher. Add them to the soup; the mashed potatoes will help to thicken the liquids.Adjust the seasonings and add the remaining cup of milk if needed.
  6. Heat through and enjoy!
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