About this time of year I’m missing seeing more of the sun’s face. Although I was delighted to notice last night at 5 p.m. that the night sky, instead of being an inky black, was more of a dark cerulean blue. Longer days are slowly creeping back.
I have a wooden Swedish star light on my windowsill that is timed to click on each evening and turn off as I get settled in between flannel sheets. It’s the only Christmas ornament that I allow to overstay the holiday season. I still need a bright spot to look forward to long after the festival of lights has ended.
That’s why cheddar corn chowder is the perfect bright! and sunny! soup for a cold and dark winter twilight. I had spotted a recipe for it on The Food Channel (not the Food Network, The Food Channel is a great Web-based cooking resource with lots of ideas and how-to videos). I adapted their recipe for cheddar corn chowder quite a lot. Theirs fed 10 (!), I eliminated some of the fats (oil and butter?), and added garlic, sweet orange pepper, and fresh cilantro for flavor and color.
I was in a huge rush after work to make dinner and head and off to a meeting, but I still had time to chop up the vegetables and let it all simmer so this chowder is a really fast and hearty weeknight meal. I also wanted some warm biscuits. In the interest of time I whipped up some Bisquick biscuits and added fresh rosemary. While the rosemary added a lovely fragrant flavor to the biscuits, there was an aftertaste that reminded me the mix was from a box. Bummer. As a scone snob, I should know better.
Cheerful Cheddar Corn Chowder
Serves 4 to 6
4 slices of bacon, cut into pieces (about 6-8 per slice)
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup sweet orange pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
3 small to medium potatoes, skins on, washed and diced
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup half and half
1 15-ounce bag frozen corn
Fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish
In a large stockpot on medium-high heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp. Remove and set on a paper towel and save for garnish.
Reduce heat a bit and add onion to bacon drippings and cook, stirring until translucent. Add garlic and sweet pepper and cook another minute or two.
Stir in flour, tumeric, salt, and pepper and cook for several minutes.
Add chicken stock and diced potatoes, bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when poked with a fork.
Add the corn, half-and-half, and cheddar cheese, cook and stir until cheese is melted and soup is heated through. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve in bowls and garnish with cilantro or parsley, bacon, and a crack of pepper.
Notes: You could easily make this a vegetarian chowder by eliminating the bacon and cooking the onion in a tablespoon of olive oil or 2 tablespoons of butter, and using vegetable instead of chicken stock. If you are using vegetable stock, you may want to add more salt. Also, do not use pre-shredded cheese. While highly convenient, packaged shredded-cheese is coated with cornstarch as a preservative measure, doesn’t melt as well, and simply doesn’t taste as delicious as the block cheese you grate yourself.