Friday, February 3, 2012

Pioneer Woman Corn and Cheese Chowder, among other things

Wahoo!  Today was a great day, and I really mean it.  Sure, there were things that got us down (my third headache in three days being one, and all the usual stressors in my crazy job-less life) but we really had a near-perfect day, starting with the fact that it was Friday.  Fridays are always great with the kids because after a busy week with school and activities, we get to sleep in because we don't have school on Fridays.   Mick and I had a meeting this morning, so the kids had to come with us, but we took two cars.  When we left, Mick headed to the office and the kids and I headed home.

We played a little, had a late breakfast, and I kept working on a few projects.   (I will post photos when they are done, don't worry.)  When we knew Mick was close to heading our way, the kids and I went to Chickaway (that's "Chick-fil-A," in WHM-speak) and did the drive-thru so we could have a tailgate picnic -- maybe redneck, but they love it.  It was too cold to have a real picnic, but it was just right to sit in the corner of the Costco parking lot and eat semi-outside.  We did that while we waited for Mick to come meet us, and then as a family we went to Costco and picked up some odds- and-ends (among them, file folders!!).  Advice:  if you can avoid Costco this weekend, you should.  We were there in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday and it was already mayhem in anticipation of the Superbowl.

Our picnic. Note WHM's hair ...

 When we were done, WHM and Mick went to get WHM a haircut and CAM and I went to Michael's and Kroger.  For those of you keeping score, this is his third haircut, and this time, he didn't even cry!  We think it's partly because we girls weren't there today, and partly because he's just getting more used to it.  But that alone makes today a huge success.

My handsome big boy with his new haircut.  It's a blurry cell-phone snapshot, and he has a milk mustache, but you get the idea.  And we don't usually do a side part, but he looks precious no matter what, don't you think?
 In any event, this post is (mostly) about a Sweet as Pie Cooking Club recipe, so I'd better get back on track here. 

Today's recipe is Corn and Cheese Chowder, selected by Renee at The Reedy Family.   I really wanted to make this tonight because (a) it was a great night for soup, a little dreary and chilly again, finally, after a week in the near-70s; and (b) I had some bell peppers just on the wrong side of going soft, and thought they'd be perfect in a soup but probably were past their prime for anything else.  If there's anything I hate, it's wasting produce, so soup was on the agenda tonight.

Corn and Cheese Chowder

Verdict:  Delicious and hearty, and the recipe makes more than enough.
Cook it Again:  OH yes, this is a keeper!
Cost Factor:  If you don't have the peppers or bacon, a little pricey.

This is a really easy soup.  The directions say to allow 20 minutes, and that's about right.  A little longer if you're sipping on a cold one and eating chips and policing pre-schoolers, so let's say 40 minutes.  20 prep, 20 cooking time.

First, we had to chop one of each of a red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, along with one large onion.  We threw the onion in a medium-size dutch oven with half a stick of butter and let them clarify (or whatever it's called).  Then we were supposed to add 3 slices of bacon, chopped.  I didn't feel like cooking bacon tonight and hadn't remembered to take any out of the freezer, (although it wouldn't have mattered since it's easy to cut frozen bacon, but it's best in that situation if you are using more than three slices) so I just threw in a few healthy handfuls of the Kirkland bacon that I so love.  Then to make it seem as though we cooked the bacon in the onions, I added about a tablespoon of our leftover bacon fat.  (Healthy?  What?!)  We let them sizzle on up and then added the peppers.  Let them all cook together for a minute or two (or five ...) and then added the kernels from five ears of corn.

The onions.  Looks like an awful lot, huh?  It wasn't, by the time it all came together.
Once the bacon was added.  I mean, onions and bacon, what more do you need?!
I wasn't too sure about the corn quality at Kroger today, and all CAM and I could find was white corn on the cob for the wintertime price of 2 ears for $1.09, so I also bought a can of Green Giant sweet corn -- just in case the fresh corn was junk.  But even our out-of-season "smaller" ears of corn gave us plenty, and were plenty sweet, so if you're cooking along, don't worry about that. 

Mick is my official corn-shearer-whatever.  Both he and I are afraid pretty confident I'll slice off all my fingers if I try to do it.
Mick had a chocolate-milk-drinking helper.  Mick also didn't want his head in the photo because he had been wearing a hat all day and wasn't wearing it at this point.  I happen to think he's handsome no matter what, but he was adamant about no head shots.  Since he had a big old knife in his hand, I obliged.

For stuff like this I don't generally pay attention to the timing on the recipe but just go 'til it looks good, so this probably added to our cooking time.  Anyway, I learned something here -- you can cover everything evenly with 1/4 cup of flour and then stir it all up so the flour coats the cooking veggies, and there's your thickening agent for the soup!  No clumps of flour to whisk endlessly, no roux to make at the start -- I love, love, love this idea and can't believe I've never encountered it before.  Anyway, new trick in my back pocket.  I am excited!

The mix with everything but the corn.  Doesn't it just look so pretty?!
...and with the corn, but no liquids.  I went a little nuts with the photos and wanted to use them all.  :)
With the chicken stock.  Even in this early stage, it tasted pretty good.
 We added three cups of chicken stock and let it thicken for a few minutes, then added two cups of half-and-half.  Now, I bought half-and-half today, but have to admit that I really don't understand this ingredient.  If you already have whole milk (check) and heavy cream (check) in your fridge -- and we always* have whole milk and heavy cream in our fridge -- the idea of half-and-half seems to be to be either redundant or wasteful or both.  But anyway, that's not the point.  Once you add that, you stir it up, turn it down, cover it, and walk away ....

*except for when we run out because Mick is out of town and I don't keep good tabs on the basement fridge, and as a consequence I have to make an emergency Costco run for milk, as happened earlier this week.  Just sayin'.
CAM is the official half-and-half measurer.  That may or may not be my adult beverage in the background.
Going to the "2" ...
And, voila!  A perfect two cups!  Great job, CAM!
Once we added the half-and-half, it started to resemble a chowder, don'tcha think?

... and in fifteen minutes, add a cup each of Monterrey Jack and Pepper Jack cheeses, stirring 'til they are mixed and melted.  And that's it!  You're done!

It was delicious and there was quite a bit of soup, and if you're judging from that last photo up above, it did thicken quite a bit. (That photo doesn't include the cooking time or the addition of the cheese, both of which serve to thicken the chowdah.)

I had a full bowl, CAM and WHM each had bowls 2/3 full, and Mick had two bowls, and there is still enough left over for another full meal.  If we'd had company we probably would have had more than enough, especially with bread and appetizers.  In any event, it looks like we're having soup again this weekend, and I am certainly not going to complain!  Yum!

Taking his first bite. YUM!

Posing. Of course.
Oh -- there was one variation from the recipe as published:  we didn't serve this in bread boules, as you can tell.   That's because I couldn't find any at Kroger or Costco and wasn't about to go anywhere else.  But I did buy some nice hearty bread for the Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich recipe, and we used some of that with our soup tonight.  It was perfect.

Renee, if you're reading, thanks for a wonderful pick!  We will definitely make this again and again!

Just because WHM wanted his picture taken.  Look at those eyes!  My handsome little man!


1 comment:

  1. I too love Kirkland's bacon. And it's so nice that your family joins you in the kitchen!