When I was just a lad, my mother used to made this really brilliant shrimp chowder.
I’ve been working on duplicating that recipe for over ten years, and then decided I wanted to go in another direction. So, I went with chicken, instead of shrimp. It took a bit of tweaking, but this weekend, I finally got what I wanted.
So, although we’re headed towards Spring, this is my cold weather, warm-your-heart, chicken chowder.
Chef’s Note: Chowders work better when the bacon is cooked but not crispy. So, resist the temptation to overcook those little piggies.
Remove bacon from the pan, allow to cool, and then dice.
Drain the bacon grease from the pan, and reserve.
Put one tablespoon of the bacon grease back into the pan; add the onion, and celery, and then sauté until softened, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from pan, and reserve.
Take the two chicken breasts and slice in half, lengthwise.
Add an additional tablespoon of bacon grease to the pan.
Chef’s Tip: If the thought of all that bacon grease scares you, you can substitute it with some good extra virgin olive oil.
Salt and pepper the chicken breasts, and then add to the pan.
Cook, over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Flip the chicken breasts, and then cook, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.
Chef’s Note: The chicken should be just cooked through, but not overly browned, or crispy.
Remove from pan, allow to cool, and then cut into cubes.
Add the flour, salt, black pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper to the chicken stock, and whisk until thoroughly combined.
Chef's Note: There is a big difference between a chicken stock, and a broth. This recipe calls for stock; however, if all you have is broth (unless it's low sodium), remember that broth's are typically much saltier than a stock… plus they do taste different. Stocks are more hardy, and that's what this recipe calls for.
Add the chicken stock to a large pot, and bring the mixture up to a slow simmer, continue to whisk as it begins to thicken.
Warm the half & half in the microwave, or stovetop, and then slowly add to the chicken stock; whisking as you go.
Chef's Note: Warm, but do not let the half & half get anywhere near boiling.
Bring the liquid back to a slow simmer.
Chef’s Note: From this point forward, never allow the liquid to rise above a simmer.
Add the cubes of softened cream cheese a few at a time, and whisk until fully incorporated into the liquid.
Add all the ingredients into the pot (except the lime juice), and simmer for about an hour, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender.
Chef’s Tip: As it simmers, add a bit more salt and/or pepper to taste, but only if you think it needs it. This recipe can quickly go over the top on the salt, so be careful.
Season then taste, season then taste; all good chefs taste as they cook… That's why my aunt used to say: Never trust a skinny chef.
Chef's Tip: This recipe produces a very thick chowder, which is how I prefer it; however, if it's a bit too thick for your tastes, then have some extra stock available, and ladle in a bit at a time, until you achieve your perfect consistency.
As a matter of fact, if I have leftovers, and I usually don't… But, if I do, I usually add a ounce or so of chicken stock when I reheat it the next day.
Add the lime juice at the end to brighten the chowder.
Serve hot, with oyster crackers, or a nice loaf of fresh bread. Enjoy.