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.
1Sauté the bacon, over medium heat, until browned.
2Chef’s Note: Chowders work better when the bacon is cooked but not crispy. So, resist the temptation to overcook those little piggies.
3Remove bacon from the pan, allow to cool, and then dice.
4Drain the bacon grease from the pan, and reserve.
5Put 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.
6Remove from pan, and reserve.
7Take the two chicken breasts and slice in half, lengthwise.
8Add an additional tablespoon of bacon grease to the pan.
9Chef’s Tip: If the thought of all that bacon grease scares you, you can substitute it with some good extra virgin olive oil.
10Salt and pepper the chicken breasts, and then add to the pan.
11Cook, over medium heat for 5 minutes.
12Flip the chicken breasts, and then cook, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.
13Chef’s Note: The chicken should be just cooked through, but not overly browned, or crispy.
14Remove from pan, allow to cool, and then cut into cubes.
15Add the flour, salt, black pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper to the chicken stock, and whisk until thoroughly combined.
16Chef'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.
17Add the chicken stock to a large pot, and bring the mixture up to a slow simmer, continue to whisk as it begins to thicken.
18Warm the half & half in the microwave, or stovetop, and then slowly add to the chicken stock; whisking as you go.
19Chef's Note: Warm, but do not let the half & half get anywhere near boiling.
20Bring the liquid back to a slow simmer.
21Chef’s Note: From this point forward, never allow the liquid to rise above a simmer.
22Add the cubes of softened cream cheese a few at a time, and whisk until fully incorporated into the liquid.
23Add all the ingredients into the pot (except the lime juice), and simmer for about an hour, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender.
24Chef’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.
25Chef'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.
26Add the lime juice at the end to brighten the chowder.
27Serve hot, with oyster crackers, or a nice loaf of fresh bread. Enjoy.