Monday, March 29, 2010

Chicken Chowder

Although Spring is just around the corner (I hope), we had a cold spell in Ottawa last week dipping down to -21˚ Celsius (-6˚ Fahrenheit). Last week, I felt like making this hearty, flavourful chowder filled with bacon, chicken and potatoes scented with thyme.
"Chowder breathes reassurance. It steams consolation."
— Clementine Paddleford
In a chowder, the potatoes perform the thickening. This one contains both potatoes and cream. At the end of the cooking, if the soup isn't thick enough, you just have to mash some of the potatoes in the soup to thicken the broth. The type of potato you use will change its consistency as well. Russet potatoes, with its brown (russet) skin, have a higher starch content and will help thicken this chowder.

Although this chowder contains bacon, which is salty, you'll need to season with lots of salt to bring out all the flavors.
Do all chowder recipes have bacon in them?
adapted from 50 Chowders: One Pot Meals - Clam, Corn, & Beyond by Jasper White

Serves 6 to 8 as a main course

6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4 ounces bacon, cut into a ⅓ -inch dice
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery (4 ounces), cut into ⅓ -inch dice
1 small red bell pepper (6 ounces), cut into ½-inch dice
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 pounds Yukon God, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and slice ⅓ inch thick
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream (optional) or 2 cups chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Broccoli (optional)

For garnish:
6 green onions, very thinly sliced

In a frying pan, sauté the chicken. Set aside.

Fry the bacon until crisp and golden brown. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, leaving the bacon in the pot.

Add the butter, the diced onion, celery and red bell pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not brown.

Add the potatoes and 4 cups of stock. The stock should just barely cover the potatoes; if it doesn’t, add enough water to cover. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Add the thyme leaves. Cover and cook the potatoes vigorously for about 10 minutes, until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center. If the stock hasn’t thickened lightly, smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot and cook a minute or two longer to release their starch.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chicken meat. Stir in the cream (or stock). Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and a bit of cayenne pepper if you like. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it as chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavours to meld.

When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Use a slotted spoon to mound the chicken, onions, potatoes, celery, bell pepper, and bacon in the centre of large soup plates or shallow bowls, and ladle the creamy stock around. Sprinkle each serving with a generous spoonful of sliced green onions.

Tasting Notes
This chowder is so good that friends of ours who don't eat bacon (or any animal with eyelashes), took a bite and went for seconds. It's that good. What you see in the photos, is my leftover chowder enhanced another day with rice. Although I don't normally eat rice and potatoes together, this left-over chowder is very forgiving.

Clam Chowder from Recipe Girl
New England Clam Chowder from Andrea Meyers
Clam Chowder in Bread Bowl from YumSugar
Chicken, Corn & Potato Chowder from Cookin' Canuck
Corn Chowder with Cheddar from Serious Eats

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    S said...

    oh my! -21? hope it warms up soon. we have been getting strange weather in Toronto, too. i love this soup, particularly bec it uses potato as a thickener. i really dislike it when you get spoonfuls of flour or cornstarch thickened chowder. this is lovely- am a huge fan of chowder. love it, shall try it but will have to omit the bacon (I dont eat pork for religious reasons). x shayma

    FoodTherapy4Me said...

    I LOVE Chowda! Nothing more comforting and filling than a good hearty one. Yours looks and sounds very tastey! I couldn't agree more about leftovers...many times flavors only improve!!

    Unknown said...

    YUM!! It's still freezing in Utah so we are still eating soups

    Bitter Endive said...

    I agree completely with Shayma! Potato is the way to go. As far as Maybe I could try it with chicken thighs, as well?

    Thanks for a great recipe!

    grace said...

    i do love a hearty chowder, and this one fits that description quite nicely! thyme is the perfect herb to include. also, if all chowders don't contain bacon, they should. :)

    Unknown said...

    Buonissima e delicatissima questa zuppa!

    Maria said...

    Great chowder recipe!

    Katrina said...

    No animals with eyelashes--I'd never heard it termed that way. ;)

    The chowder sounds great!

    Kathleen said...

    Love Chowder! This is the perfect comfort food. YUM!

    EB of SpiceDish said...

    Is there anything more comforting on a cold day than a hearty soup? I think not.

    Manggy said...

    Uh, whoa!! I hope you guys are all okay and snuggled up! I'm not sure if all chowders have bacon - I've never made one! This has certainly inspired me to try, though it is 29C here ;)

    The Food Addicts said...

    Chicken chowder sounds so comforting. I could use a bowl of that right now..

    Lori said...

    We've had some up and down weather, but I think spring is finally here to stay. I really think I could eat this soup anytime though. It sounds so great!

    Anonymous said...

    I made this recipe in my mini Staub cocottes and it turned out beautifully. Thanks for the really great ideas

    Unknown said...

    We live in the southern hemisphere, and although -21 is highly unikely here in New Zealand, this will certainly help with the winter blues :)
    Thanks :)

    Taste Buddies said...

    And I thought it was cold here at 10C! Lovely looking soup Shari.

    Unknown said...

    Next time try using leeks instead of onions and ham instead of bacon. And instead of cream you can use milk along with the chicken stock. I use potatoes as well and sweetcorn and peas. And if you are in a hurry, use precooked barbecued chicken. To thicken the soup I put in some plain flour with the potatoes but mashing the potatoes works as well. Good blog. Happy cooking

    À LA GRAHAM said...

    Wow, this looks hearty! I will def be saving this one for a cold day! Love your blog...can't wait to go through your recipes!