Cream of Celery Chowder

“Why would anyone put hard-boiled eggs in soup?” asked Jerri as I put a bowl in front of her.

“First of all, it’s not soup. It’s chowder,” I answered, “and it was probably a Mennonite farmwife with lots of chickens.”

This recipe was inspired by one from the Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter, a cookbook I have referred to many times over the years. Since Jerri was born into a Mennonite family, one would think she would understand that if your chickens were laying, you had to use the eggs. This is a good way to get rid of a couple, or three, if you really like hard-boiled eggs.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups chopped celery with the leaves
1 cup chopped potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 large eggs
3 T butter
3 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
3 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp. celery salt
Dash of hot sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

Clean and chop the celery and potato into a half-inch dice. Clean and finely chop the onion. Put the vegetables into a three quart saucepan, cover them with about a cup and a half of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about fifteen minutes.

Put the eggs into a small pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook the eggs for five minutes, remove from the heat and let the eggs continue cooking in the hot water for another eight minutes. Cool the eggs in ice water for a few minutes. Peel and chop them into a quarter to half-inch dice and set them aside in a small bowl.

Remove the vegetables from the heat. Make a roux. Melt three tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the flour, salt and white pepper and stir the mixture until it begins to bubble. Continue cooking the roux over low heat for two or three minutes, but be careful not to brown it. Add the milk to the roux, stirring constantly until it thickens and turns into a smooth sauce. Cook the sauce for another two or three minutes.

Stir the sauce into the vegetables and fold in the chopped eggs. Return the soup to the heat and stir in the hot sauce, celery salt and a grind or two of black pepper.

Bring the soup to a simmer, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve as a satisfying lunch or as a first course for dinner. With a sandwich it makes a good light supper.

NOTES: If you don’t have whole milk, mix a half cup of half and half with two and a half cups of reduced fat milk or add an extra tablespoon of butter to the soup. Whole milk gives you a velvety smooth soup.

Corn and Cheese Chowder

Chowders are basically thickened soups. They are similar to stews but often are thickened with cream, biscuits or crackers. This recipe uses cream and flour to thicken the broth, but the addition of corn and cheese puts it definitely in the chowder category.

Jerri found the original recipe about eight years ago on the web. It was pretty good but too bland for our taste. We increased the bacon, cheese and spices and ended up with a better bowl of chowder than what we had the first time we made it.

It’s inexpensive, easy to make and a good main dish for a warm and nourishing dinner on a cold winter evening. Give it a try.

INGREDIENTS:

5 slices bacon
1 large onion (3 1/2 – 4 inches in diameter)
1 T butter
2 tsp. cumin
3 T all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. white pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 large potato
10 – 12 oz. package frozen whole kernel corn
1/2 cup whipping cream?2 1/2 – 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

PROCEDURE:

Peel the potato and chop it into a quarter inch dice. and cut the bacon into half inch pieces.

Fry the bacon in a four quart saucepan or Dutch oven over moderate heat until it is browned and slightly crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a paper towel on a small plate.

While the bacon is cooking, clean the onion and chop it into a quarter inch dice.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the bacon fat. Cook the chopped onion in the fat for a minute or so, then stir in the cumin. Add the flour and white pepper and cook for one to two minutes to make a roux.

Whisk the chicken broth into the onions and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the potatoes, bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes for eight to nine minutes, then stir in the cream and corn.

While the chowder is coming back to a simmer, grate the cheese. Stir in the grated cheese and hot sauce and heat until the chowder is steaming. Stir in two or three grinds of black pepper, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with some crisp bacon. Serve with a salad and a good bread.

NOTE: If you don’t have any chicken broth in your pantry, you can substitute bouillon cubes and water. Start with three cubes of bouillon and four cups of water. Add another cube or a teaspoon of instant bouillon if you need more salt.