Saturday, February 11, 2012

Poblano Chicken Chowder

Poblano Chicken Chowder

I love southern food, and the various cultural influences on it. There is definitely an undeniable Hispanic influence on our food here - rich, earthy, robust, flavorful foods are a staple of that cuisine, and it fits well with our food here.  I've posted about liking spicy foods before - so when I developed my first recipe from a blank piece of paper, I decided to do something full of flavor with a little kick. Someone I was talking to mentioned wanting to make a chowder with poblano and corn. I've made plenty of soups before, but not chowders. Chowders can be incredibly flavorful and actually aren't too difficult. To start developing the recipe, all I needed to know was how to make a base for chowder. I read about that for a bit and began.
Roasting Poblanos
One of my favorite ingredients in this Chicken Poblano Chowder (and obviously an important one) is the poblano pepper. They have a great flavor. It's mild and mellow, and usually doesn't pack much heat. I decided to roast the peppers first, as roasting them adds a smoky quality to them and helps pull some of the heat to the surface - don't worry, it's hardly spicy. This is the same pepper they use in chile relleno at Mexican restaurants. If you've never roasted a pepper, I posted a short how-to over here. With that and several ingredients chopped and prepped, the chowder was ready to begin.

Chowder Ingredients
Chowder Progression
 Sautéing the vegetables and herbs not only softens them up, which is important for a soup, but also really brings out a great aroma. After adding your chicken or vegetable stock, you can see the progression the soup goes through - from a thin and murky translucent liquid to the creamy, thick soup we call chowder. Adding the chicken, black beans, and corn help it to thicken a bit. You'll also add cracker meal to the soup to thicken it up (crushed crackers). Some people use bread crumbs, others use stale bread... You can use whatever you have. Just make sure it's small enough to incorporate into the liquid. Once it has thickened, you'll add some cream to it - this gives it the pale look that chowder is known for. You can sub in milk to be healthier - but it's a small amount of cream and it really isn't the same. Two notes before we get to the recipe... I used chipotle chile powder in the chowder. If you like it a bit more spicy, you can go with cayenne. I thought the chipotle powder helped bring out the smoky flavor of the vegetables. Second, I used a whole sprig of thyme in with the vegetables when sautéing them. It can easily be pulled from the soup later after the leaves have come apart. Dried thyme can be used in its place if you don't have fresh thyme.

1 strip bacon, or 1 teaspoon bacon fat
2 Poblano peppers, roasted, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 green onions, chopped (tops reserved)
1 sprig thyme
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1 1/2 cups grilled chicken, chopped
1 15 oz can corn, drained
1 15 oz can black beans, drained, rinsed
3/4 cup cracker meal
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder 
3/4 cup cream
Hot sauce

Heat bacon or bacon fat in a stock pot. Add Poblano peppers, garlic, green onions (making sure you reserve the tops for garnish), and thyme. Sauté 6-8 minutes or until vegetables begin softening. Add chicken stock to vegetables slowly. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, 8-10 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium and add chicken, corn, black beans, cracker meal, and chipotle powder. Cook 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more cracker meal as needed to thicken chowder.
Reduce heat to low and add cream, stirring for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Garnish with green onion tops, cracked pepper, and hot sauce.

Poblano Chicken Chowder Garnish

This is a great recipe for the waning days of winter. I know I'm going to enjoy it over the next couple of cold days here! Let me know what you think about this chowder - or if you have your own favorite ways to make chowder.

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