Monday, September 20, 2010

Potato and Ham Chowder

This potato soup is my go-to recipe when I'm feeling like something warm and hearty. My mom used to make this soup when we were growing up (with some low-fat modifications, including turkey bacon and skim milk, eew!) But regardless of the fat content, this soup is still fabulously filling.

It starts with the unlikely pairing of vegetables and bacon.

"Unlikely" may have been the wrong word. Delicious?

Start the bacon in your pot. Use just a little oil, to make sure the bacon doesn't stick and burn.

When it's crispy, take the bacon out but leave the fat.

You might have to make extra bacon. My family likes to pick at the crispy bacon bits and sometimes doesn't leave me much!

Pour the veggies into the bacon-fatted pot.

Yes, you could drain the bacon fat and use olive oil intead. But ... why would you?

Now that your cutting board is clear, you can dice up your potatoes.

I find that cutting the potatoes into thirds, and then those pieces into thirds, and then dicing them makes a nice sized potato for soup.

Like this!

By now, your vegetables are probably soft enough. It's time to make a roux to thicken your soup.

Sprinkle in your flour and stir it around to make sure it gets cooked.

Once you've cooked out the raw flavor, you can add in your liquid. For this, I like to use both chicken broth and milk. It's a creamy soup so you really have to use the milk, but I find that it tastes too milky and rich when I use milk alone.

Now you can pour in your potatoes.

Let your soup simmer; your potatoes will slowly cook. You'll want to check on your soup frequently and stir it quite a bit, or you run the risk of the potatoes and milk sticking to the bottom of the pot. Just don't leave the kitchen for long periods of time.

Once the potatoes are about cooked, you can start thinking about your final ingredients.

I like to dice up some ham. I love potatoes and ham and ham is just so convenient to both buy or freeze for later.

I also add a can of corn. I don't mind canned corn at all--in fact, I prefer it to frozen. If you can still get fresh corn, though, by all means use that instead.

And finally, just for some color, I like to shake in some paprika.

Remember that crispy bacon? Sprinkle some right over the top of your soup.

The great thing about this chowder is that it's quick and easy (really, the longest part of your day is waiting for the potatoes to cook), it uses ingredients that you probably already have on hand, and--get this--it reheats and freezes well, too. It's a great way to end your day, and will be equally great the next day to get you through the second half of your workday.

Recipe: Potato and Ham Chowder

4 strips bacon, roughly chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped

1/4 c. flour
2 cans (28 oz) chicken broth
4 c. milk (at least 2%)

3 medium potatoes, diced

1 ham steak, diced
1 14 oz. can corn
1 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, saute bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels or newspaper.

Add carrots, onion, and celery to bacon fat. Saute until softened.

Sprinkle in flour; stir for about a minute until flour is cooked. Slowly add in chicken broth and then milk.

Carefully add potatoes to soup; simmer, stirring frequently, until potatoes are nearly done.

Add in ham, corn, and paprika. Stir.

When potatoes are cooked through, soup is ready to serve! Top with bacon and enjoy.

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