They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I truly believe that. The “Queen of Leftovers” originated many moons ago, and she has just grown and become so much more creative over the years. She has become my alter ego while in the kitchen. My parents were both Depression/ WWII babies, and food was often scarce. That was something they never forgot, and so when I came along, I was always raised with the concept of “waste not want not”, and it has been with me throughout my whole life. Thus, the “Queen of Leftovers” was born. The Queen comes into my kitchen quite often and was in my kitchen again yesterday. This time she made soup and quesadillas from some of the leftovers we had from our burger party The Burger Bar . It wasn’t the perfect soup weather, but it was much cooler than it had been a couple of weeks ago, and I had everything to make corn chowder, so corn chowder it was. We may not have more soup weather for another couple of months, and I took advantage of the “cooler” weather and made soup. By “cooler” weather, I mean it was in the high 70’s as opposed to being in the high 90’s or above. It was a “cold spell” for these hot days of summer we have been having. It was a nice little reprieve. But it is supposed to be hot again for the rest of the week, which means probably more salads. When I cooked my corn on the cob the other day, I cooked it in milk, butter and water, and since I only used it to cook my corn, I used that for my soup base. We also had some left over corn and I just scraped the corn off the cob and mixed it in with my other vegetables. With a little of this and a little of that, before too long, corn chowder was created and the soup was on. I also had some leftover sauteed mushrooms, peppers and onions that became the filling for quesadillas. So dinner was chicken and corn chowder with vegetable quesadillas topped with guacamole, also leftover. I served a cool, crisp chardonnay along side my soup. Delicioso!
Making my soup.
Years ago, when I was in culinary school, and we were just learning how to make soups and chowders, one of my chef instructors told me the key to making chowder is the bacon and the potatoes. OK. I love potatoes, and you can’t go wrong with bacon. When I make chowders, I love them nice and thick. This same chef instructor had his own ideas about chowders, and he liked them on the thinner side. When I challenged him, and told him I was going to make them how I wanted to, he punished me by having me cut 10 lbs of onions. I am VERY sensitive to cutting onions, and I always “cry” up a storm. My eyes just burn something terrible too. Obviously, I still cut and use onions all the time, but that memory has been ingrained forever, along with the crying and burning eyes. I will never “punish” anyone for making dishes their own way, and to their own liking. In fact, I encourage it. You are the one that is going to eat your food, so make it the way you like it.
Cooking the bacon and the potatoes together. Once they were cooked, I added the rest of the vegetables. Cook until softened and translucent.
While all the vegetables are cooking, I cooked the chicken, coated with some flour, separately. Once the chicken was cooked, I added it to the vegetables and then poured in the chicken stock and my milk and butter mixture. I brought everything to a boil, then reduced the heat to a simmer and let it cook down for about 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Because I like my chowders thick, I added more flour while my soup was cooking.
Corn and Chicken Chowder
2 lbs chicken, diced and cooked (I coated mine in flour while I was coking it, but this is optional)
3/4 red onion, diced fine
1-2 potatoes, cubed small
1/2 lb bacon, diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced fine
1 large bag of frozen corn, or fresh corn cut from the cob (about 1 lb)
1 red bell pepper, diced fine
2 jalapenos, diced fine
1 heaping TBSP garlic
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp oregano
salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
olive oil/butter for cooking the vegetables (I use a combination of both. Adding the butter adds a richer, creamier flavor and also helps lower the smoke point of the olive oil, so it won’t burn)
4-5 cups of chicken stock
2-3 cups of either milk or heavy whipping cream (I usually use the heavy whipping cream, but I had the milk mixture this time)
Cook the potatoes and bacon until the bacon is cooked and the potatoes are softened. Add the rest of the vegetable mixture and continue cooking until all the vegetables are softened and translucent. Cook the chicken until fully cooked. I coated mine in flour because I like a thicker chowder, but this is optional. Once the chicken is cooked, add it to the vegetable mixture. Add the chicken stock and the milk/cream and the seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for another 1 1/2-2 hours. I added about 1 more cup of flour to my soup mixture while it was cooking, to thicken it up. I topped it with cilantro, and a little crab (optional) before serving.