The history of a chowder goes back centuries and is derived from the corrupton of the French word "chaudiere" which translates to soup cauldron. Chowders were most traditionally fish or seafood based slow-cooked soups/stews that were thickened with biscuits. Although thought to be French, chowders are now almost exclusively American. Having been brought to American shores, the chowders evolved with tastes and regional variations. Most chowders are still milk or cream based but the Manhattan chowder is tomato based. Here is a great history of the soup.
Today's chowders are works of art and compared to the crappy clam chowders seen along the tourist traps on the Eastern and Western shores, high-end establishments are recreating these soups with wonderful nuances like smoked salmon, caviar and other delicacies.
This chowder stays to the core of the basic recipe, a mix of potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin for the base bolstered with a light roux and scented with Southwestern flavors, jalapeños, cumin and chili powder. Thick, bold and delicious, this vegetarian chowder is still my favorite. The soft vegetables are peppered with bright red from the bell pepper, spicy from the chilies and a light tang from the pickling juice, this chowder is usually a meal by itself.
I am quite surprised I have not posted a recipe from this cookbook yet. It is one of my first cookbooks I purchased, and one that I have to make wonderful soups from. Every page has been stained and every recipe has been amazing, this book taught me to love soups, not ordinary soups, but soups with flavor. The collection of recipes go beyond the ordinary and the chef opens up a world of amazing soups in this cookbook. This is an older cookbook, but still a classic and one that I recommend for anyone who wants to make excellent soups.
For more recipes for this amazing cookbook, click here.
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small bite sized pieces
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small bite sized pieces
4 cups butternut squash or any yellow pumpkin, peeled and cut into small bite sized peices
4-5 cups corn, frozen ok
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, finely minced
1 small green bell pepper, cut into small bite sized pieces
1 small red bell pepper, cut into small bite sized pieces
2 ribs celery with leaves, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
2 heaped teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeño juice
1-2 pickled jalapeños
Cilantro, minced for garnish
Lime wedges, to serve
Tortilla chips, to serve
Avocado, to serve
Heat the stock or water and add the potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the honey, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes till the potatoes and sweet potatoes are cooked through and quite mushy.
While the stock is simmering, cook the onions in the ghee and oil on low heat till they are soft, about 5 minutes. Do not brown. Add the green and red peppers, the celery and garlic and continue to sauté till the vegetables are all soft and cooked through, an additional 10-15 minutes minutes. Add the chili and cumin powders and toss to coat the vegetables. Add the flour and again toss the vegetables to coat them. Cook on a low heat to sauté the flour till it turns a light brown. Set aside.
When the vegetables are cooked add the sautéed vegetables and bring the soup to a simmer. Cook gently till thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool. Add the milk and/or cream and stir in.
Remove about half the vegetables from the soup and set aside. Add the pickled jalapeños into the soup and purée the soup with a hand blender, or in a regular blender till smooth, it is ok if it is a bit chunky. Add the vegetables back to the soup and mix in. Mix in the pickled jalapeño juice. Taste and adjust salt, spice with chili powder and the tartness with the jalapeño juice. The soup should be bold and wonderful.
Heat the soup gently, do not boil as it may split due to the milk and vinegar combination. Serve hot topped with cilantro, a wedge of lime, tortilla chips and avocado.