Cheesy Chicken Chile Corn Chowder – Cause Alliteration Is Fun!
A dear friend gave me a copy of Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table, With Recipes and I have delighted in savoring every passage. I find in Ms. Niequist a kindred spirit, someone who approaches not only cooking but many aspects of life the same way that I do. I was reading today and came across this tasty morel:
“Learning to cook is all about learning those nonnegotiables and then playing around with the rest. Recipes are how we learn all the rules, and cooking is knowing how to break them to suit out tastes or preferences. Following a recipe is like playing scales, and cooking is jazz.”
That is precisely my approach to cooking. When I’m hunting for a recipe I generally head to the internet and peruse my cookbooks to get an idea of how various different cooks have approached the dish. I read through the ingredients, scan the techniques, and always check the comments and reviews online to see what people who have made the recipe have to say about it. Did they change a step along the way? Was one flavor too pronounced or did they need to punch things up a bit? What did their friends and family think? After my search I choose one version because it has the ingredients I most want to mirror or it clearly outlines a technique I’m trying to duplicate and then I head to my cupboards and see what I actually have on hand.
This usually leads to more searching for what ingredients can be a substitute for anything I may be missing and then I set out to cook the dish in my own unique way not because I’m some cooking genius but because, over the years, I’ve learned what things my family particularly likes, I have a sense for how long it might take me to prep things, and I know what my calendar looks like on any given day. I almost never follow the recipe exactly as printed, sometimes with great results and sometimes with a few hiccups along the way. But the beauty of this somewhat loosey-goosey and experimental approach to cooking is that, in the process, both with my successes and more acutely with my failures, I have learned how to cook. I have gained confidence in my own skills, have an awareness of my limitations, and have a sense of adventure that makes me think, “Anything’s worth trying at least once.” And, in turn, each recipe I make has my own personal stamp on it.
Everything I post on this blog, unless specifically stated otherwise, is my personal take on a recipe, usually by way of one or two other cooks. Today’s recipe is no different. I present for your tasting pleasure my “Cheesy Chicken Chile Corn Chowder” which was presented to me as Andrea Vaughan’s “Cheesy Chicken Chile Chowder” but was derived from the recipe found in “Taste of Home” and listed as “Cheesy Chicken Chowder”. Each cook along the way has added their own unique spin which means you are free to do the same. Read through and find what you like, toss the rest, and, above all, have fun with it.
When I think of jazz musicians, I think of people doing something they do well purely for the joy of it – no rigid rules, no absolutes, no pressure. This week no matter who you cook for, no matter the occasion, may you cook like jazz and find joy in the process!
The Home Grown Mom’s Cheesy Chicken Chile Corn Chowder
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced potatoes (peeled or not, fielder’s choice)
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c butter
1/3 c all purpose flour
2 cups shredded cheese (chedder or cojack)
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 can green chile OR 1/4+ cup frozen, depending on your spice preference
1 can corn
NOTE: I have found that I really prefer to make my own broth the day of if I have time. Tucked in my freezer is a container with the bones, veggies, and scraps of chicken that I pull out when I need chicken broth. I finally wised up the other day and wrapped all of my chicken stock ingredients in some cheesecloth so that straining my broth was not such a hassle. If I am making the broth the day of, I’ll start by tossing my broth kit, for lack of a better term, into a pot of water and letting it cook for a minimum of 4 hours. I judge the doneness by the color, I’m looking for a nice creamy yellow. Once the broth is nearly done, I’ll add in my fresh chicken and let it cook before continuing with the recipe.
1. Bring chicken broth to a boil.
2. Chop your carrots, onion, celery, and potaotes and add to the broth along with the salt and pepper. Feel free to peel the carrots and potatoes if you like but don’t feel bad skipping that part, I never do. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
3. Meanwhile, in a separate pan melt the butter then add the flour and mix well. Gradually stir in the milk and cook over low heat until slightly thickened. Stir in cheese and cook until melted.
4. Add cheese mixture, cooked chicken, green chiles, and corn to the broth and veggies. Cook and stir over low heat until heated through.
VERY IMPORTANT: If you decide that your soup isn’t quite cheesy enough and think, “I’ll just toss a handful of shredded cheese into the pot,” think again. You’ll end up with clumps of cheese instead of the smooth and creamy cheesy texture this soup is known for. Trust me, I speak from experience. Your best bet is to make the milk and cheese mixture and add most of it to the veggies and broth. That way, if you decide you want a lot more cheese, you can add shredded cheese to the reserved portion of the milk and cheese mixture and let it melt before adding it to the pot.
Rachel’s Artisan Loaf
This recipe is adjusted from the original to make 2 one pound loaves or 4 bread bowls.
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3/4 Tbsp. granulated yeast
3/4 Tbsp. kosher or coarse salt
3 1/4 cups un-sifted all purpose white flour
Step One – Mixing Your Dough
1. In a large bowl, mix together flour and yast. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, mix together water and salt. Then add the water to flour mixture and stir until just combined.
2. Transfer to plastic container. Allow to rise at room temperature for 2 to 5 hours. *At this point you can portion out a pound of dough and make a loaf. The dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 14 days. (The flavor of the dough will change getting increasingly more sour the longer it is stored.)
Step Two – Baking Your Loaf
1. On the day of baking the bread, take your dough out 1 hour before baking. Allow to sit out for 30 minutes. Divide your dough into 4 sections for bread bowls or 2 for loaves using a sharp serrated knife. **I didn’t cut my dough, instead I liberally floured my hands and sprinkled some flour on top of the dough and then grabbed a section of dough. I formed it into a round by gently tucking the sides under the bottom of the dough and then placed it on a piece of parchment paper sitting on top of my pizza spatula and continued portioning and shaping the remainig dough. I got this technique from watching Rachel make the bread during a cooking class at Gourmet Gallery.**
2. Put pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 450. Allow the bread to rise for 20-30 minutes.
3. Cut desired slits into dough and slide the parchment paper with the dough on top into the oven.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes for bread bowls. Remove and allow the loaf to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Increase cooking time to 30-35 minutes for a regular loaf of bread.