Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Conversation with the Chef: Our Favorite Fall Soup

     We've been eating this soup, and loving it, all fall.  The original recipe is in the Penzey's spice catalog.  It's well worth your money to order enough from them to get the catalog.  It's educational (where does cinnamon come from?) and always has good recipes.  Of course, I took this recipe and changed it up a bit, to suit our tastes.  I've been dicing the vegetables in very small pieces, it's a time waster but aesthetically pleasing.  Also I added fresh herbs from the garden, when they were still growing, because they're so tasty and what could be nicer than cooking with an herb bouquet?  My herb bouquet, or bouquet garni, isn't quite the true French version.  Of course, I adapted that as well to what I had on hand.  Herbs are so expensive, I think it doesn't hurt a bit to take the ones you know are meant to be a subtle flavor and adapt the recipe to use what you have.  Clearly, there's no chili without chili powder.  But I think you can get away with a bouquet garni without a European bay leaf.  Just don't mention it to the French Chef.

Vegetable Chowder
4 TB butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 red skinned potatoes, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 c. green beans, diced
16oz. package frozen corn
4 c. chicken stock (homemade)
15 oz. can cream-style corn
1 c. chopped ham
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. poultry seasoning or sage (or add sage to the bouquet garni)
*Bouquet Garni – use sprigs of herbs from the garden (rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley) tie with a string and let them float in the soup as it simmers, remove before serving.
*Or in winter use scant amounts of dried herbs, probably leave out the basil.  A sprig of fresh rosemary should still be available, otherwise omit that also.  Julia Child would wrap these in cheesecloth so that the herbs would not disperse in the liquid; I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.
1 ½ c. half and half or milk

In a soup pot, melt butter over medium-low, add the onion and cook until soft but not browned.  Add garlic and cook for one more minute.  Add all remaining vegetables and continue cooking about 5-10 minutes, or until the pot gets too dry.  It helps to leave the lid on and lift it to stir occasionally.  Then add broth, cream style corn, ham and seasonings.  Allow to simmer over medium heat until all the vegetables are soft.  Add the milk and cook until warmed, but careful: the milk scorches easily on the bottom of the pan.

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