Friday, August 28, 2009

Corn Chowder with Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuits

Continuing the soup kick that permeated my summer, I could not resist the opportunity to use some of my CSA corn for a chowder. Also, I had two large bulbs of fennel, and I read that fennel can be a great addition to soup. Finally, I had both carrots and celery from my CSA, so really, how could I not make some kind of soup?

Homemade chowder is a little tricky for me, though, because I cannot bring myself to purchase any dairy product creamier than 1% (and the 1% was a compromise with my husband - I would really prefer skim). It takes a really special ganache for me to bring out the heavy cream.

Luckily, has an amazing chowder recipe that can use any type of milk (and also uses bacon fat, but somehow I don't have the same reservation about bacon fat...). The way this chowder slowly simmers with an amazing assortment of hearty flavors (bacon, carrot, celery, bay leaf) creates a really flavorful soup.

To me, a hearty, savory soup is not complete without some kind of bread. Tonight, that bread was biscuits. While I periodically have buttermilk in the fridge, I don't keep it as a staple since I can't go through a container fast enough. However, a few years back my mother-in-law let me in on a little secret: powdered buttermilk. Is it as good as the real thing? Not quite. Would I use it in buttermilk pancakes: in a pinch, but don't expect pancakes quite as fluffy and rich. Nonetheless, it works in biscuits! So biscuits we had.

Corn Chowder with Chicken
Adapated from

1 T unsalted butter
1 strip of bacon or 1 t of bacon fat (sub 1/2 T butter for vegetarian)
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup) I was out of onion and substituted fennel, which could also be added with the onion
1/2 large carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 celery stalk, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
3 ears sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 2 cups), cobs reserved
1 bay leaf
3-1/2 cups milk, whole or low fat
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, or Ruesset, peeled and diced I was out of potato, and it was fine without!
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
Leftover chicken to taste

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon strip and fry until the bacon renders its fat, but doesn't begin to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the onion (and/or fennel) and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes.

Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan. Add the milk and boy leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer to prevent scalding the milk.

Discard the cobs, the bacon strip, and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes (if using), red pepper, 1 t of salt, fresh ground pepper, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Raise the heat, add the corn kernels, thyme and leftover chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serves 4

Buttermilk Biscuits
From SACO Foods

4 T SACO buttermilk blend
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
2 t granulated sugar
1/3 cup solid shortening (I used butter. Shortening will make for a flakier biscuit, though)
2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 450. In large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening thoroughly until mixture resembles corn meal. Add water and mix until dough is pliable. Do not overbeat. Turn dough onto lightly-floured surface and knead for about 30 sec (20 to 25 times). Roll or pat 1/2 inch thick, no less. Cut with floured biscuit cutter. Place close together on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes one dozen 2-1/2 inch biscuits.

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