Monday, October 29, 2018

Pumpkin and Corn Chowder

  Ok, I know I tell this story all the time, but it's a tradition! So, I'll tell it again!
 When I was growing up, my Mom always made a big pot of soup on Halloween. On one hand, she knew all of my siblings would be coming and going at different times, back from chilly trick or treating, and wanting something hearty to warm us. And on the other hand, she knew she'd be answering the door all day, giving out candy to all of the other ghosts and goblins in the town, so she wouldn't be able to spend any time in the kitchen cooking dinner. A big pot of soup was definitely the answer. As she used to tell me, "You just put everything in the pot and let it cook." And then throughout the day, everyone could just come in and fix a bowl. Seriously, I'm not even kidding when I tell you that there was nothing better in the whole world than coming home from trick or treating and knowing that there was a big bowl of hot soup waiting for us. It was sheer heaven!
 So, to keep the Halloween soup tradition alive, I decided to make a rich corn chowder. Actually, I was originally gonna go with something with a broth base, but then my Sis, Cathy, suggested a chowder, and not only that, specifically one with pumpkin and corn. That sounded FABULOUS to me, so I did a bit of looking. I found several versions, many of which are spicy. That wasn't really the vibe I wanted. Then I found a recipe on a blog called Table for Two. Full disclosure, I didn't really follow that recipe, but rather just used it as inspiration to make THIS one. I changed all of the amounts because basically I wanted to make a BIG pot of soup, instead of just for two. I just kept adding things to the pot and I also add some fresh herbs. So, I guess my version is kind of similar but not exactly the same as theirs, but they definitely get the credit for the original inspiration.
And OMG! Can we talk about how delicious it is?????
 I seriously could not stop eating it. It's SO deep with flavor from the aromatics and from the fresh thyme. But the star of the show is definitely the sweet corn. And the pumpkin adds body and creaminess without making it heavy. Serve it up with some fresh warm crusty bread and it's a meal all on its own. You could also use it as a first course for your Thanksgiving feast! It's just that good! Quite frankly, it has to be pretty amazing in order to get the "Thanksgiving worthy" seal of approval, and this one definitely is! It's perfect for any holiday meal. You should definitely keep this one handy! I know you'll love it!

4-5 cloves garlic
1 lb bag carrots
5 large ribs of celery
1 large onion
1 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
4-5 medium potatoes
24oz bag frozen corn
15oz can pumpkin
a bunch of fresh thyme sprigs
2 cups milk
48oz container chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Chopped chives (optional)

 First, mince the garlic and peel and finely dice all of your veggies. You want everything to be about the same size as kernels of corn.
 In a large heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the diced carrots, celery, and onions along with the minced garlic. Saute, stirring frequently, until everything begins to soften. Add the flour, and stir to coat all of the veggies. Continue to cook for another few minutes, and then add the remaining ingredients. Stir to incorporate everything. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring every so often to make sure it's not burning on the bottom. The soup will thicken as it cooks. Add more salt and pepper if you need to. Remove thyme sprigs. Serve chowder with chopped chives sprinkled over the top as a garnish, if desired.

To make it easier to remove the thyme, tie the sprigs into a bundle with cotton string. The leaves will fall off during the cooking, and then you can just fish out the bundle of twigs and discard it. Easy!
Anytime I make soup, I'm always amazed at how much salt it takes. Don't add a ton at once, but just be sure to taste as you go, and adjust the seasoning at the end. It will probably need more salt than you think it will, and a good amount of pepper too!
To add a little smokey note, you can saute some bacon lardons in the pot before adding the veggies, then continue with the recipe as directed. Just reduce the amount of butter if the bacon renders a lot of fat.
If you'd like to make it completely vegetarian, just use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth!
For a little extra splurge, top your bowl of soup with a few roasted jumbo shrimp. That would elevate it to special occasion status!

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