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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Smoky Ham and Corn Chowder



 I make soup all year, though not as often in summer (Cold cantaloupe soup, vichyssoise, room temperature  vegetable stew with chickpeas). 

  But during Ohio's coldest months, I make a pot of soup about once a week.  The process is soothing, and we love eating it. I find it the perfect winter meal.

I found this recipe recently on NPR's website. My changes are noted parenthetically and involve convenience and some fat reduction. We were pretty happy with this, especially with Stilton Parmesan bread, though I would have liked to kick up the spice level rather than cut it back. But, alas, Joe can't handle the heat. And I couldn't handle life without Joe.



SMOKY HAM AND CORN CHOWDER (from npr.com)

Serves 8 to 10 (or up to 20 small servings as part of a buffet)
4 slices thick smoky bacon cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick strips (I used about 6 oz. of a          thinner cut of applewood smoked bacon)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used 3)
1/2 pound good-quality smoked ham, cut into 1/2-inch dice (I skipped this and used extra smoked pork chops)
2 small boneless smoked pork chops, cut into 1/2-inch dice (I used 4 medium chops)
2 large yellow onions, cut into dice, about 4 cups (I used about 3 1/2 cups sweet onion)
2 to 4 minced jalapeno peppers, depending on how spicy you like your chowder (skipped)
2 red bell peppers, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used 1 orange pepper)
2 green bell peppers, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I substituted 2 zucchini)
5 medium red potatoes (about 2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch dice, peeling optional (I used 4 bakers, peeled) 
2 fresh bay leaves (I used dried)
5 sprigs fresh thyme (I used 1 1/2 tsp. dried as my thyme is covered with snow)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder, or substitute cayenne (I used 1/8 tsp. cayenne)
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I used about 1/2 cup)
8 to 10 cups homemade chicken broth or best-quality commercial chicken broth (I used about 7 cups commercial broth)
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen roasted corn or regular frozen corn, thawed (I got my roasted corn at Trader Joe's)

1 cup heavy cream (I used 1 /2 cups of Land o' Lakes fat-free half and half)

Place the bacon in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot and cook over medium heat until it begins to brown and render its fat, about 10 minutes.

 Add the butter, ham, and pork chops and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat is lightly browned. 

Stir in the onions and jalapeno peppers and saute, stirring often, until the onions are softened and translucent, about 8 minutes.

 Stir in the bell peppers, potatoes, bay leaves and thyme. Saute until the peppers and potatoes are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, if using, and salt, sweet and smoked paprika and the chipotle powder and stir to combine. Sprinkle in the flour, constantly stirring to prevent lumps from forming.
Pour in a cup of chicken broth and stir well to combine it with the flour. Gradually add an additional 6 to 9 cups of broth, depending on how thick you like your chowder. Cover the pot partially and simmer the chowder gently over low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until all of the vegetables are tender. Stir in the corn and cream and cook until heated through. Ladle the chowder into bowls and serve immediately.
You can make the chowder a day in advance up to adding the corn and cream. Refrigerate the chowder in a tightly lidded container. When you are ready to finish the chowder, bring it to a simmer in a large pot. Add the corn and cream and heat through.