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02/19/2019

~ Creamy & Chunky Chicken & Mushroom Chowder ~

IMG_8848Whether it be a quick-to-make brothy soup or a long-simmered thick stew, a steamy-hot cup or a whole damned bowl of either is my idea of the ideal take-a-break and sit-down-to-eat meal. Add a handful of cooked noodles or rice and I'm as happy as a clam.  Speaking of clams brings chunky chowder to mind, and, every time I make chowder, I ask the same question, "why don't I make this more often?"  I love everything about it, right down to the little crackers that get crumbled in.

6a0120a8551282970b019aff34d937970cChowder is a rich soup chocked full of chunky-chopped protein and vegetables. It's mostly associated with fish or seafood because it gets its name from the French word "chaudiere", which refers to the cauldron fishermen made their fresh stews in over open fires on the boat docks (with clam chowder being the most popular and most famous).  That said, chowder can be made with any meat or poultry too. Here in America, chowders are made two ways: New England-style, with cream and/or milk in the broth, and, Manhattan-style, with tomatoes added to the broth.  In the case of a well-made New England-style chowder, the broth should be rich, silky and slurpy -- not overly-thickened glop tasting of bland flour.

Once you drive South of New England, through the metropolitan areas of Boston or New York and Manhattan proper, and arrive here in the rural Northeast, you're more likely to find corn or chicken chowders on the menus of our eateries.  It's only natural.  The farther inland you go, access to fresh fish or seafood dwindles as the price skyrockets.  That said, our farms consist of vast fields of sweet corn, and, if they don't raise dairy cows, they own a poultry farm.  It's farm country.

IMG_87626  tablespoons olive oil (Note:  Chowder is traditionally started by frying bacon in the bottom of the pot.  The crisp bacon is removed, chopped, and returned to the soup near the end of the process and/or used as garnish.  The bacon drippings that remain are used to sauté the protein and/or vegetables.  Feel free to skip the olive oil and use bacon drippings.  That said, in this particular recipe, I do not.  For my taste, bacon overpowers its luscious flavor.)

2 pounds uncooked, trimmed of any fat, 1/2" diced boneless, skinless chicken thighs (chicken tenderloins may be substituted)

16-18  ounces medium-diced yellow or sweet onion (about 3 cups)

12-14  ounce peeled and 1/4"-thick sliced carrots (about 3 cups)

8-10  ounces diced celery (about 2 cups)

1 1/2  pounds thinly-sliced crimini or white button mushroom caps, no stems, or a combination of both

4-8  large garlic cloves, run through a press, about 3-4 tablespoons pressed garlic

6  tablespoons salted butter

6  tablespoons Wondra quick-mixing flour for sauce and gravy

4  cups chicken stock

2  cups cream + up to 1 cup whole milk (to achieve desired consistency)

2  tablespoons dried herbes de Provence (a mixture of rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory)

2 1/2-3  pounds gold potatoes, peeled and 3/4" diced (about 5-6 cups)

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, added as directed throughout recipe

minced, fresh parsley, for garnish

mini-saltine crackers, for accompaniment

IMG_8765 IMG_8765 IMG_8765 IMG_8765~Step 1.  In a 14", 8-quart chef's pan (or an 8-quart Dutch oven), place the olive oil. Add the diced chicken, onion, carrots and celery.  Season with sea salt and peppercorn blend (about 40 grinds salt and 50 grinds pepper). Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring almost constantly, until the chicken is just short of being cooked and the vegetables are softening, 8-10 minutes.

IMG_8776 IMG_8776 IMG_8776 IMG_8776 IMG_8776 IMG_8776 IMG_8776 IMG_8776~Step 2.  Sprinkle the garlic over the chicken and add the mushrooms to the pan.  Briefly stir to combine.  Season again with sea salt and peppercorn blend (about 40 grinds salt and 50 grinds pepper).  Continue to sauté over medium-high heat until the mushrooms have lost their volume and moisture and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pan, 25-30 additional minutes.

IMG_8795 IMG_8795 IMG_8795 IMG_8795~Step 3.  Adjust heat to medium-low.  Add butter to pan, followed by the flour and herbes de Provence.  Stir constantly until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture is thickened and steaming, about 1 minute.  Turn heat off just long enough to peel and dice potatoes as directed.

IMG_8804 IMG_8804 IMG_8804 IMG_8804 IMG_8804 IMG_8804 IMG_8804 IMG_8840~Step 4.  Add the chicken stock to pan, followed by the cream.  Thoroughly stir.  Add potatoes and adjust heat to medium- medium-high.  Bring to a gentle, steady simmer.  Continue to simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, stirring frequently, until potatoes are cooked through to their centers, 25-30 minutes.  After potatoes are cooked, if desired, stir in some additional milk, to adjust consistency and simmer 1-2 more minutes.  Cover pan and allow the mixture to steep, on the still warm stovetop, for 30-60 minutes, to give flavors time to marry.

Note:  Leftover chowder will thicken in the refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave or on the stovetop, and, plan on needing to add additional milk to adjust consistency.

Five Quarts Creamy & Chunky Chicken & Mushroom Chowder:

IMG_8847Serve steaming hot garnished w/parsley & mini-saltines:

IMG_8874Creamy & Chunky Chicken & Mushroom Chowder:  Recipe yields 5 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; garlic press; kitchen scale (optional but recommended) 14", 8-quart chef's pan w/straight-deep sides & lid, or, 8-quart Dutch oven w/lid; large slotted spoon and/or spatula; soup ladle

IMG_8714Cook's Note:  I'm not gonna lie, I came up with this chowder recipe (today), because I had a package of boneless chicken thighs and a goodly amount of mushrooms leftover from my ~ Perfectly-Prepared Chicken and Mushroom Risotto ~ (which I made and posted over the Valentine's Day weekend). With a snowstorm happening in Happy Valley today, this chowder is going to be a warm and hearty, "winner, winner Wintertime dinner!"

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

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