Saturday, November 22, 2014

Easy Corn Chowder for a Cold Night

Lots of years ago, my Dad, who loved to cook and was quite creative, gave me a recipe he had made from some magazine. This was back in 1995, so it's been a while, and I don't have any idea what magazine it originally came from. It was called Hearty Corn Chowder. 

True to form, Dad tinkered with the recipe. This must be where all my sisters and I got this trait from. He wanted to make the soup while visiting on the occasion of my daughter's wedding. Dad said he sometimes added in grated carrot. I wanted to add garlic, which was conspicuous by its absence! I add garlic to everything - doesn't everyone? Over time, while the basics are still there, I have changed the amounts to suit my husband's and my taste. The thing that most intrigued me about the recipe in the first place is the use of Lit'l Smokies. A whole package of them go into the soup, along with a goodly portion of bacon. The rest is mostly opening cans: a can of whole kernel corn, a can of creamed corn and a can of evaporated milk. 

Hearty Corn Chowder
I don't even know how many servings this recipe was supposed to make. My Dad said it all depended on how hungry you were. I will say, on occasion, my husband and I have polished off the entire recipe all by ourselves. Did I mention how tasty this soup is?

Over time, I have mostly eliminated cans in my pantry. I say mostly, because there are some that I still use consistently like tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste, canned corn (usually 50% sodium or no sodium), creamed corn (reserved only for making my Creamy Corn Casserole and this Chowder), various types of beans (kidney, white, cannellini, black, pinto, garbanzo) and evaporated milk, just to make life a bit easier. I no longer buy canned soups or most any products that contain more than one item. Most canned goods have so much sodium that I spend weeks at a time trying to get rid of excess water weight. Things like the creamed corn are used only for these couple of recipes and nothing else. 

Package of Lit'l Smokies
So back to this Chowder. It does call for three separate cans of things, plus the bacon and the Lit'l Smokies, so it is pushing my limit for using cans and processed foods, but once in a while, it is just good. As for the Lit'l Smokies, I usually keep some in the freezer, but use them mainly for holiday appetizers like Smokies in Puff Pastry. Sometimes they come in handy for this soup. Since our severe Winter weather started at the beginning of Fall, I decided to make this soup a couple of days back. I got out my old recipe, written as Dad gave it to me, just to compare and see what all I have changed. I was actually a little surprised at how much my recipe differed. Not in ingredients (except for the garlic!), but in the amounts. To me, 1/2 cup of chopped onion is just plain not enough - for that little, why bother at all? As for 1/2 cup of celery, well, while that would be enough in my book (I am not over fond of celery), it does make a great "filler" ingredient. And then of course, garlic. So this is my own take on this recipe. I do not use carrot. I wouldn't mind, but my husband doesn't care for carrots. Sorry, Dad! My husband does, however love potatoes (they must be peeled), so more potatoes are used. Obviously, the recipe turns out a bit larger than the original. We usually now have a little bit left over.

You may notice there is no salt listed in this recipe. Both bacon and the Lit'l Smokies are quite salty on their own, so they do an excellent job of making the soup palatable. I usually use the no sodium or 50% less sodium whole kernel corn, too. If your taste buds need salt, add it to taste. For us, it is perfect as is. If there is any place that does not carry Lit'l Smokies, substitute them with a good smoked sausage, cut into small cubes.

One thing Dad did recommend: make cornbread to accompany this chowder! Here is the recipe:

Hearty Corn Chowder

Hearty Corn Chowder

serves 3 - 4

1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cup)
3 large stalks celery, chopped (about1 1/4 cup) 
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups potatoes in 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 medium)
1 1/2 cups water
1 (15.2-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14.75-ounce) can cream style corn
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (16.8-ounce) package Lit'l Smokies
1 tablespoon dried dillweed

In a large soup pot, fry the bacon until crisp. With a slotted spoon, scoop the bacon onto paper toweling to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the pan. Add the onion and celery to the hot pan and saute the vegetables, stirring occasionally until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and toss until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the cubed potatoes and the water, bring to boil and reduce to medium. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes. 

While the potatoes are cooking, cut each of the Lit'l Smokies into 3 pieces and set aside. Remove the cover from the pot and stir in all the remaining ingredients, along with the reserved bacon and return to boil. Set heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Best served with cornbread on the side.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.