On a cold, frigid day, there is nothing better than a hot bowl of soup to warm you up from the inside out. But is it really soup? Or could it be a stew or a chowder or even a bisque? They are all related, but each has its own unique personality and characteristics. Soups and and bisques are both French in origin, but are totally different from each other. A soup, or soupe as it is known in French, is a mixture of either vegetables, legumes, meats or seafood, or any combination thereof, cooked in a liquid broth. A bisque is a creamy soup, usually made with seafood and frequently has a tomato base. They are pureed and smooth. Chowders are American. They are thick creamy, chunky soups, often made with potatoes and bacon. The name chowder is a derivative of the French word chaudiere, which means cauldron, the name of the pots fisherman would use to cook their fish soups or stews. But that is about as French as chowders come. They originated in the Northeastern part of the United States, in the New England area. The first written recipe for a chowder dates back to 1751. Originally chowders were made with seafood, but today, any thick, creamy, chunky soup is considered to be a chowder. Soups, bisques and chowders are all types of soup and are cooked with a lot of liquids. Bisques and chowders are thickened, often with a roux or flour and usually have milk or cream added to them as well. Stews are distant cousins of soups. A stew is a dish consisting of a combination of meats, fish and or vegetables that is stewed or cooked slowly in a covered dish with very little liquid. Whatever your preference, they all do the trick on those cold, cold days when the mercury drastically drops down and you need something to warm you up.
I like them all, but most often I prefer chowders. I have made many, many types of chowders and soups throughout the years. Sometime I follow (more or less) certain recipes and other times I throw in whatever I have leftover into the “soup pot” and cook it all up into something totally unique. We are still in the throws of winter here in the Denver area, even though Spring is supposedly right around the corner. Our high today, though not as cold as yesterday, was only about 18* F. But it us still pretty darn frigid. It was a perfect day for soup, or chowder as it turned out. I made a spicy chicken and wild rice chowder that definitely helped warm “the cockles of my heart” and took off the chill.
Spicy Chicken and Wild Rice Chowder
2-3 lbs chicken breasts, cubed small
4 celery stalks, diced small
4 large carrots, peeled and diced small
1 onion, diced small
1 large jalapeno, diced fine
2 TBSP garlic
6 large mushrooms, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
5 cans chicken broth or about 10 cups
2 1/2-3 cups wild rice
2 cups heavy whipping cream
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
1 TBSP oregano
2 tsp each thyme and marjoram
olive oil for cooking
Cook the chicken in one pan and the carrots, jalapeno, garlic, celery and onions in another pan, both in olive oil. When the chicken is completely cooked, add it to the vegetables, along with the mushrooms, broth, tomatoes, rice and seasonings. Mix everything together well.. Cover and bring to a rapid boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for another 45-60 minutes or until the rice is cooked. If you want it just like this, without the cream, this is a perfectly delicious soup all on its own.
If you prefer it creamy like I do, then add the cream after the soup is cooked. Mix thoroughly and continue to cook for at least another 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
By adding the cream and cooking it some more, my soup has now become a chowder.
As a soup, you can serve it with your choice of wines, although I would recommend a dry white or a sweeter white to balance out the spiciness. As a creamed chowder, I would definitely go with a white rather than a red, but as always, drink what you like. There is no right or wrong and there are no absolutes you need to follow when pairing wines with foods. Drink what you like and enjoy!