I am quickly reminded when I say things like, “I learned how to make this soup from a Moldovan woman while I was visiting my father in Kabul, Afghanistan,” what an interesting life I’ve had—privileged, not in a monetary sense, but full of diversity, culture, and once in a lifetime experiences (some good and some bad). My goal is to write more about those experiences, starting with this recipe. Continue reading →
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I am not a vegetarian. I love meat. But I also love moderation. I am perfectly happy going meat-free a couple times a week, and I’ve made it a normal part of my family’s routine. Going meat-free isn’t just good for our health, it’s good for our budgets and our planet.
I started seeing “meatless Monday” popping up on various social media sites and I think I read about it in a few magazines, but I had no idea what a big deal it really is; it’s an actual movement. “Meatless Monday began in 2003, launched in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In May, 2009, Ghent, Belgium, became the first non-U.S. city to go meatless. Shortly thereafter, Paul McCartney introduced the U.K. to Meat-Free Mondays.” Check out the website for more info, and make it a part of your weekly routine if you haven’t already.
This soup is a great way to start. I modeled it after my grandma’s recipe, (She actually makes tuna chowder, which I love, and this is really that recipe minus the tuna). She usually makes it with evaporated milk, and you can absolutely substitute the half and half for evaporated milk–it is so old-fashioned; I love it. I just always have half and half for my coffee, so I throw it into recipes.
It sounds funny, but the “secret” ingredient really is the celery. Celery seems so insignificant, but it makes all the difference in chowders. My French ancestors were really on to something with their mirepoix, and I’m happy to carry on the tradition. This is a great base for any kind of chowder. Try tuna, clam, chicken… and of course, feel free to start the recipe by crisping some bacon as long as it’s not meatless Monday.
Finally, I am a big believer in dunking things in soup, so I serve it with something toasty, and usually cheesy… I can’t help myself.
Here’s how I made the soup, and the cheesy dunkers:
Corn and Potato Chowder
2 quarts vegetable broth
2 cups half and half or evaporated milk
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 to 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes (I used 5 medium sized potatoes)–peeled and diced
3 cups corn kernels (I used frozen, but in the summer time you must use fresh corn–so good!)
1 medium yellow onion–chopped
1 carrot–peeled and diced
2 stalks celery–diced
1 garlic clove–peeled and gently crushed
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne (optional)
Chives or parsley to garnish (optional)
In a large pot melt the butter, and add diced onions, carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaf with a big pinch of salt–about a teaspoon, a few grinds of black pepper, and a teensy pinch of cayenne, if using. Sauté over medium heat until the onions are translucent.
Add flour and stir to combine, cook for about a minute.
Add wine and stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and add potatoes. Cook for about twenty minutes until potatoes are just tender. Add corn and half and half, bring back to a very gentle simmer until heated through. Don’t boil! Taste and adjust seasoning. The salt you add will depend on your stock, so it is very hard for me to give an exact measurement. Just add what tastes good!
Garnish with chives or parsley and enjoy!
*One of the benefits of evaporated milk is that it can withstand boiling, so if you use it you don’t have to be quite as concerned about curdling as if you use half and half.
If you want to serve it with a dipper, here’s how I made my most recent version:
1/2 loaf of italian or french bread
1/2 stick soft butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Smear bread evenly with butter, sprinkle evenly with cheese, place under broiler and watch carefully until the cheese gets brown. Don’t walk away! This happens fast! Slice and serve alongside the soup!
I’m back on my mushroom kick again… It’s not the first time, and I assure you it won’t be the last. I just love them, as I’m sure you remember from my Chicken Marsala Pasta post. Of all things mushroom, this soup has to be my favorite. Throughout my childhood and into my teenage years, I requested it often from my dad and grandma.
Obviously, I had to start making it for myself, and since there was never really a recipe, I came up with my own. I get excited when I see the varieties of mushrooms that are available at most grocery stores (food nerd alert!), and this soup can be made with any combination of them. Whatever you choose will be perfect, so get creative. It is rich, creamy, and comforting, but not overly thick as some “cream of” soups can be. Also, some mushroom soup recipes are ridiculously skimpy with their mushroom proportions, and the end result is really disappointing. So, while my amount might seem excessive, I promise it’s worth it. This is serious mushroom soup; I’m not messin’ around.
I still love topping it with my childhood favorite of crumbled saltines or oyster crackers. For something more substantial and dinner time appropriate, I like to serve it with grilled cheeses (for dunking of course!) made with either Fontina or Gruyère cheese (these two cheeses pair really nicely with mushrooms and thyme). No matter what you serve it with, you’ll be happy. It’s the perfect meal on a chilly fall day or night, kind of like a big hug for your tummy. Yum, yum, yum….
Cream of Mushroom Soup
48 ounces of mushrooms; any variety and combination, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced (Today I used 16 oz button, 16 oz cremini (baby bella), 8 oz oyster, and 8 oz shiitake)
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 sprigs fresh thyme (remove leaves from 4 sprigs and finely chop. Reserve the other 4 sprigs for your stock)
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
1/2 cup marsala or dry white wine
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half and half
1/4 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and add mushroom stems. Cook for a few minutes until stems begin to brown. Add stock, 1 cup of water, and 4 sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil and let simmer while you prepare the mushrooms.
In a large pot or dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add onion and a good pinch of kosher salt. Cook over medium heat until onion softens and begins to brown. Add sliced mushrooms, garlic, chopped thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. (At this point you might think I’m crazy, but just trust me! The mushrooms cook down quite a lot during the next few steps.) Stir, and cover with a tightly fitting lid for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir again, replace lid and cook for another 5 minutes. At this point your mushrooms will be very soft and have quite a bit of liquid. Remove the lid and continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, again, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the final tablespoon of butter, once melted add flour and stir for a minute or so until you can’t see the white of the flour anymore and the mushroom mixture becomes thick and pasty.
Strain the mushroom/chicken stock directly into the soup pot containing the mushrooms, and cook for 15 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom occasionally.
After 15 minutes you will have a thick, almost gravy-like consistency. Add cream and half and half. Stir to combine and heat through, but make sure not to boil. Taste for salt and pepper, adjusting as needed.
Serve in big bowls with crackers, bread, or grilled cheese on the side.