Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baked Potato Chowder

Topped with cheese and parsley.

I recently told someone who’s thinking about moving to Texas that the food is what keeps me here–that, and the weather (75% of the time, at least.  Summers are brutal.)  This week is definitely part of that 75% of the time.  And although I’m enjoying the sun, I’m still a little sad to think winter is coming to an end already.  A week of afternoon temperatures in the 70′s is a clear indication of the turn toward spring in this part of the world.

And, knowing how quickly the weather gets downright hot, I also know that means the end to a whole category of foods that I love: soups and stews.  I’ve tried many recipes for cold soups and never found one I like very much; soup, for me, is a cold-weather thing.  So, rummaging through the refrigerator this evening in search of dinner inspiration, I happened on three leftover baked potatoes and decided a big pot of potato soup would be a lovely way to say goodbye to another Texas winter.

Just cheese, please.

Like all soups, this one is infinitely malleable.  I used what I had in the refrigerator or pantry; you can use different vegetables (green and red pepper in place of the celery and corn, for instance) or spices.  Also, you can easily make this a vegetarian recipe by substituting vegetable broth or additional milk for the chicken stock.  For toppings, use anything you like to put on top of a baked potato:  snipped chives, chopped parsely, sour cream, shredded cheese, crumbled bacon.  Anything goes.

Mr. Picky, of course, will not mourn the passing of soup season.  The rest of us will be anxiously waiting for a day or two of unseasonably cool weather.


Baked Potato Chowder


3 medium Russet potatoes, baked until soft and cooled
2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 celery stalks, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 can low-fat evaporated milk
1 cup chicken stock (or more, to reach the desired consistency)
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. oregano
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed


Cut cooled potatoes in half and scoop the potato flesh into a bowl. If you want a smooth chowder, use a potato masher to break up any large chunks. If, like me, you like the occasional chunk of potato in your chowder, leave the potato as is.

In a large soup pot, melt the butter into the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir to coat all pieces with the oil and butter mixture; allow the onion to cook for two or three minutes before adding the chopped celery. Stir everything together, reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow the onions and celery to cook together for five minutes.

Add the cooked potato and stir to distribute the onions and celery throughout. Slowly stir in the evaporated milk, then the chicken broth. Add more broth, if necessary, until your chowder has the desired consistency. Add the marjoram and oregano. Heat through, but don't let the chowder come to a boil.

Add the corn kernels and let them warm up for two or three minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and add your choice of toppings.




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