Ah, Chowder. A comfortable word for a savoury comfort food par excellence. Another chilly day favourite to drive the cold from your bones. I love this stuff and it’s so easy to make. Whatever your fancy, chowder can take it, as this dish is so versatile it can do handstands and juggle plates while solving Fermats last theorem. Unless someone else has got there first.
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large stick of Celery
1 piece cardboard chicken (Boneless, skinless, Chicken breast)
2 rashers bacon
Pinch ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons cooking oil (Canola, Peanut, whatever, totally academic)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or two crushed and finely chopped cloves of garlic
1 baking potato
Water as directed in method
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen sweetcorn niblets
1 pinch Chinese five spice
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
1/2 a teaspoon of chopped fresh (not dried) parsley for garnish
For seafood variant substitute cardboard chicken with;
1/2 cup Clams
1/2 cup or 1/2 lb (250g) boneless skinless white fish
1/2 a cup prawns, or seafood sticks,
1/2 a cup (Half a fillet) Salmon
Catch my drift? Just keep the mass equivalence the same and you won’t go far wrong. Experiment, investigate.
One note of caution; fresh or frozen seafood only,
Right. Here we go. Chop up one very large onion fairly finely. Likewise one stick of celery. Put the celery and onion in a very large saucepan over a low heat with about a tablespoon of cooking oil, canola is okay, as is vegetable oil. For that little extra edge, a dollop (tablespoon) of peanut or olive oil can be substituted. Leave to sweat down and soften thoroughly. Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or two crushed and finely chopped cloves of garlic may be added after it’s all gone slick and semi-translucent. Some authorities advocate a large pinch of allspice, others chilli. But as seasoning is such a personal thing, I’ll leave that to you.
While the onion and celery is on the go, take one cardboard (skinless and boneless) chicken breast, or three boneless chicken thighs. Chop into small chunks. Do likewise with two rashers of bacon. Put on one side. Mix a tablespoon of flour with salt and black pepper, roll the chicken and bacon chunks in the flour. Heat up a tablespoon of cooking oil (Canola, Olive, Peanut, Vegetable, whatever) in a frying pan and throw in the floured chunks, turning and stirring almost constantly until light gold. Keep the remaining flour mix. You’ll need it.
Take a baking potato and partially (over 50%) cook it in your microwave (If no microwave, peel and dice spud, the only difference will be to extend the cooking time by half an hour). Remove potato skin and cut into thumbnail size chunks. Add chunks to the frying chicken and bacon and keep stirring. As the chicken is turning light gold, add a cupful of sweetcorn niblets and fry gently with the potatoes, chicken and bacon. When chicken is cooked through and can be easily cut with a wooden spoon, add frying mix to the pan of softened onion and celery. Stir. Add enough water to the same level as the mix in the pan. Do not cover with water. Bring to a slow simmer and stir every five minutes or so. Do this for half an hour.
If you have a liquidiser or blender, ladle in two or three medium ladlefuls (about half a cup size) of the chicken, bacon, potato onion and celery mix. Blitz. Put liquidised mix back into the main cooking pan. At this point take the remaining seasoned flour mix and add water until it’s the consistency of thin mud. Add flour and water mixture to slowly seething mass of chowder in the large saucepan. Stir every five minutes or so. Keep on heat until reduced to a thick, glutinous and chunky consistency, tasting the mix periodically to ensure it is neither too watery and bland, or too salty. Add salt and black pepper to taste. A little extra garlic or garlic powder can be added at this late stage, just to get the desired flavour.
When you’re happy with the taste, take chowder off the heat and decant a couple of ladlefuls into a bowl. Cut some fresh bread or get some crackers. If you’re feeling really posh you can sprinkle a pinch of fresh parsley to give a little visual appeal. Eat. Enjoy. Relax. Let your taste buds do the talking. Think deep thoughts. Solve the worlds multiple crises. Chowder is so good it can help you do this. Although it is recommended that you do not try to leap tall buildings in a single bound afterwards, no matter how good you feel, as that kind of behaviour always ends in tears on a full stomach, not to mention charges of criminal damage and multi million dollar civil lawsuits.
When the rest of the chowder left in the pan has cooled, decant into some one or two serving freezer containers, and when cooled completely, seal these and put in the freezer for future consumption. You know it makes sense.