To talk about a chowder with New England as a destination without tackling the Seafood chowder first could be seen as somewhat of a sacrilege. But truth to be told there is a lot to be learned from other versions in how they approach what comfort food is. In the recipe below I tried to strike a balance between simplicity, healthiness and comforting flavors.
You can easily make it vegan by substituting the bacon with fried shallots and the cream with almond cream. For our gluten-free friends, replace the flour with cornstarch or potato starch.
Yield: 4 comforting bowls
6 stripes of bacon
4 garlic cloves
1/3 cup white wine
1 large onion
2 celery sticks
3 cups water (or light broth like chicken or veggie)
1 large potato
2 corn cobs (or 2 cups of frozen corn work too)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)
1/4 cup half-half (or heavy cream)
2 tbs all-purpose flour
2 green onions
Lemon wedges (optional)
Doing this recipe is much faster and simpler if you use an electric pressure-cooker. If you don’t have one, you can get some equally good results by simmering the chowder for a longer time (about 35-40min) on the stovetop.
“Frying” the bacon + garlic and prepare the fond
Set the pressure cooker to “Saute”. Cut the bacon into .5 inch lardons and mince the garlic finely. Drop the bacon first and add the garlic once enough fat has been rendered. Stir from time to time to ensure even browning. What you are after are nice and crispy bacon bits with fried garlic. Reserve those for serving at the end but keep that good fat in the pot.
Pour the white wine into the fat and wait until it’s reduced by about half. Watch out as pouring a liquid into hot fat will create some activity in that pot (but no need to be paranoid here it’s deep enough and not hot enough to be dangerous).
Making the broth
While the good stuff is bubbling all it can, chop the onion and celery into small/medium pieces. It’s going to melt in the end so no need to be too fancy here with the knife work. Saute the mix for 2-3 min in the pot.Dice the potato into small/medium bits too and cut the corn kernels from the cob. Do not throw away the cobs! Put the potato dices, corn kernel, corn cob and anything you want to use to flavour the broth (I used the empty lobster shell I froze after making the delicious lobster rolls here). You could easily add some toasted sesame oil, bay leaves or pink berries if you want at this stage…basically whatever you like as long as it remains subtle in the amount of flavours it brings to the dish.
Lock the pot and set on high pressure for 10 minutes.
Turning the soup into a great chowder
While the soup is cooking chop the chives and green onions finely and reserve. A quick tip to get a nicer presentation at the end is to cut the onions with a slight angle.
When ready, use the quick-release method to drop the pressure in the pot, then discard any flavouring elements you used (i.e. lobster shell, cob, leaves, etc.).
Set the cooker back to Saute and add the half-half, flour and half the green onions. Bring to a boil while stirring vigorously to mix the flour and breaking down some of those potato dices to help getting a richer soup. Let it simmer for a few minutes until it thickens a bit.
Serve with bacon and garlic bits on top of the chowder and the remaining green onion and chives. Poppy seeds looks nice as well if you have some in your pantry.
A wedge of lemon on the side is a great addition if you want to bring a bit more acidity to the dish.
This chowder can be a great meal on its own with a side of toasted sliced roll and coleslaw or be a side itself to accompany other seafood-based delicacies from New England.
Next time I’ll try to add some fresh goat cheese to bring some tartness to the soup while banking on the comforting taste of hot goat cheese.
Let me know what you think below.