cooking recipes

Comfort, Thy Name is Chowder

All in one day! Only in Michigan….

     Here in Michigan, spring weather seems to fluctuate more than the stock market. Yesterday, I awoke to temperatures in the 60’s—nice! Today? Not so nice—in fact, 49 degrees of not so nice.
     My choice for a supper-time meal tends to reflect the weather of that day. Eighty degrees? Pasta with veggies (from the garden!), gazpacho or Michigan Salad (greens, strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers and radishes). Sixty degrees? I might make chili with corn bread, goulash or au gratin potatoes.

Rad radishes!

     While we recently experienced a more seasonable stretch of warm days, the obligatory scatter of lower-than-normal high temps bobbed up once again, and that is when my daughter suggested I make one of her favorite meals: Corn and Potato Chowder with Easy No Knead Skillet Bread.
     My husband made this chowder the first time, and he used some of the ingredients and methods of cooking he found in a recipe online and tweaked it with his own. The second time I decided to make it, so he coached me from the living room, and it seemed complicated then. But as with most things, once I made it on my own, I made it my own. I use the basic white sauce (or roux) in a variety of dishes, but this is the only recipe I make that calls for such a large amount of butter and flour. I want to end up with a large batch of chowder, and because I do use so much butter and flour, the soup ends up being quite thick. This allows me to thin it out with additional milk or even water when I need to reheat it the next couple of days.
     This chowder (with the accompanying bread and a salad) is comforting, and it comes with an added bonus: I don’t have to cook for the next two nights!

I don’t have to cook for the next two nights!!

Corn and Potato Chowder

See the variations below for alternatives to the ingredients.

Olive oil
1 large onion
8 oz. mushrooms (or more if desired–I use baby bella)
¾ -1 stick butter
½ cup flour
2-3 large carrots
3 stalks celery (with any leafy tops)
3-4 medium-sized potatoes
Frozen corn
1 32 oz. container chicken broth (low sodium) or stock
Half and half (optional-warmed)
Milk (warmed)

Herbs and Seasonings:
Whole Foods All Purpose Seasoning (I use this in just about everything)
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Dried Dill Weed
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

     Pour at least three tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Chop onion and cook in oil until soft (you can add some salt at this time to release moisture). Cut up butter into the pot. Sprinkle flour on top and stir until thoroughly blended. Keep mixing and stirring for 4-5 minutes over medium to medium-high heat (a few minutes longer is fine as long as you keep the mixture moving) to eliminate any flour taste (don’t let it burn).
     Pour in chicken broth (or stock) and stir. It will be quite thick. Add any seasoning you would like from the list (and, of course, omit any of mine and add your own favorites) and stir thoroughly. Cut carrots and celery into bite-size pieces (chop up the tops of the celery if you have them) and add to the pot. Follow with washed potatoes, cut into small cubes (leave skin on). Add mushrooms chopped to desired size. Add warmed half and half and/or milk (I use whole milk and half and half combination, so it’s pretty rich) a little at a time and stir after each addition. Add as much as you would like (I use about a quart to a quart and a half of milk total) to make the quantity you desire. At this point, I usually add two cups of frozen corn (more or less to your liking). If you use low-sodium broth, you can correct the salt, and if you use stock no correction may be needed. Cover and simmer for approximately 30-45 minutes (start checking for doneness of vegetables to your liking at the 20- to 30-minute point). Check seasonings.

I’m still not a food stylist, right?

     The last time I made this chowder, I used a lot of leftover celery hearts and leafy tops (chopped up), which probably measured at least three cups. The taste of celery was obvious (which we all liked), and the addition of the tops seemed to give the chowder a sweeter taste.

    The amount of each ingredient may be adjusted to taste, and some ingredients may be omitted. We love mushrooms, so I add them to most of the meals I cook (I have used up to 16 oz. in this chowder), and there have been times I did not have celery and just added more carrots and corn.
     If you want to make a smaller batch, reduce the butter, flour and milk accordingly. Also, you can make this with two 32 oz. containers of chicken broth (or stock) and less half and half/milk. To make this chowder vegetarian, use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
     I add enough half and half/milk so that we have three meals, but a larger family could easily have two. If you like an even thicker chowder, do not add as much half and half/milk. 
     To reduce the amount of fat, you can try using 2% milk and no cream. Read an e-forum discussion on the use of varying percentages of milk fat in a roux.

     I always make skillet bread (thanks to Baker Bettie!) with this chowder and use a combination of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour in these measurements:

2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour

That’s right. Keep trying, KJ.

     When combining with the yeast/water mixture, I add a cup of all-purpose flour, stir thoroughly with the salt, and then add one cup of whole wheat flour and stir. I then add the rest of the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, stirring after each addition. At that point it is hard to mix, and you must put the spoon away and use your hands to make sure all of the flour is combined. I pat it smooth, put plastic wrap over the bowl and place on the stove (which I have set to about 250°). I leave it there for a couple of hours.
     I make the bread first and set the bowl on top of the stove to rise before starting the chowder.
     This bread recipe calls for rosemary to be sprinkled on top, but I loathe it and use dill weed instead. I’ve coated the crust with the pungent herb and the taste is quite subtle. I make it now without adornment, and it is still very tasty.

Dill–its redolence makes me happy!

I do not touch the dough once it has risen for the second time in the cast iron pan–I just pop it in the oven. When it is done, I cut small pats of butter and spread them over the top of the bread until melted to make the crust softer. I then sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.
     The bread reheats nicely in the microwave for your next day’s meal of Corn and Potato Chowder! Enjoy!

Bowl of chowder/bread on plate with cosmos flower:
Weather forecast image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 
Excited woman image by silviarita from Pixabay
Celery image by ptanpm from Pixabay 
Dill with scary hornet video by diztormag from Pixabay 

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