January 17, 2012

Mushroom Chowdah

It started really snowing here in Astoria sometime on Saturday night.  I woke up Sunday morning to a blanket, well, more like a sheet of wet snow outside.  My heart jumped and I was instantly back in Montana, getting ready to head out and meet friends for some play off football action.  Then it started drizzling and I was back in Oregon, with wet hems and a broken windshield wiper.  I still was heading out to watch football and grab a bite to eat, but there was something missing.  I spent most of Sunday and Monday thinking about a way to feel right at home and take advantage of these snowy days when it hit me…. I needed to make a hearty soup to warm my soul.

Who doesn’t like a bowl of warm, tasty soup on cold wintery day?  Nobody, that’s who.  Sunday night I started to flip through books and the internets to find the perfect soup to make myself after work Monday, but nothing really jumped out at me.  Then, Monday morning I decided to stop and get myself a coffee on the way into work.  I checked the newest blog posts and stumbled upon a Broccoli Chowder recipe from the Sprigs of Rosemary blog.  Then it hit me, I had to make a chowder tonight.

Photo by Holliday - Snowy Astoria

OK, so I knew what I wanted to make, but I have had bad luck with chowders in the past: either too thin or untasty, or I have made it so many times (Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder) that I had put it on hiatus.  I also didn’t want to go to the store.  I have a big shopping day planned for tomorrow so I wasn’t too excited to make 2 trips in a week to Safeway or Fred Meyer.  So I started with a list of the food I still had at home to make dinner with… mushrooms, chicken, an onion, a variety of spices, chicken broth and milk.  Sounds like the beginnings of a chowder to me!

At lunch I did some internet searching for a chowder made of those ingredients and came across a Mushroom Chowder at AllRecipies.  It was a good, basic recipe so I scribbled it down and thought about ways to make it a little more interesting.  The recipe was pretty much just sautéed mushrooms and onion in a chicken broth base thickened with flour.  Basic chowdah.  I pondered it while writing about boat steering components and tortured my empty stomach all afternoon. 

Photo by Holliday
I finally got home and dove into the fridge to see what I had forgotten in my mental food inventory and started pulling ingredients out.  Chicken breast, mushrooms, onion, some celery stalks, a carrot, milk, chicken broth, minced garlic, flour and a variety of spices.  I spice my chicken with sage, black pepper and oregano and put it in the oven to bake while I chop up the veggies.  I’ll be sautéing them with some garlic before I add them to the broth and flour.  One think I did note from the original recipe is that they added the flour and a small bit of broth to the veggies to make a rox before adding it to the broth.  Maybe this is what I’ve been doing wrong in the past.  I’ll give it a shot.

The chicken is done and I cut it into small pieces and add it to the broth I have simmering on the stove along with rice, black pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper (gotta have at least a little kick).  While that gets back up to a simmer I add the flour and broth to the veggies and stir and am surprised that it actually worked.  I have a rox pre-mixed to add to my chicken broth.  In it goes and already I can tell the difference from the way I have made chowder in the past.  For one, the consistency looks good and everything didn’t separate when I poured the milk in. 

Photo by Holliday
I add thyme and the tiniest pinch more of oregano and let my chowder simmer away while I finish up my hot pads.  My sewing machine broke so I’m stuck with my hands to do the job.  You might not think hand stitching two 7x7 hot pads would take a long time, but it does.  Anyways, I watch the news and am thrilled that it is going to keep snowing for the next couple days.  Hooray!  Snow!  After about 15 minutes I check on my pot and realized that it isn’t thickening they way I wanted it to.  I jump back into the fridge to find something to help it along and come out with parmesan cheese.  I had used 1% milk because I didn’t have heavy cream (besides, trying to healthy it up a bit) and now the addition of a pinch of parm cheese already has made a difference.  I stir it up and head back to stitch away. 

Another 20 minutes and the chowder is the perfect consistency.  Thick and creamy and smelling wonderful.  I spoon it into a bowl and realize my mouth is watering like crazy, this is going to be so good.  The chowder barely has time to realize it is off the stove before I take a bite.  HOT! HOTHOTHOT!  But so good!  Once the initial heat has passed, the flavor takes center stage.  It is everything a chowder should be: hearty, warm, chunky and surprisingly light.  It has a nice kick to it too.  After a couple bites I decide to make a small jack cheese quesadilla to dip and that just adds to the flavor explosion. 

Photo by Holliday
Bite after bite I can’t get over how filling but light this chowder is.  It is like I stumbled upon a healthy, yet hearty dinner.  The pieces of carrots and celery brighten up the bowl and the mushrooms add a nice depth to the flavor while the rice fleshes everything out.  I thought I would miss a biscuit or a thick slice of bread, but I don’t.  It is wonderful just the way it is, quesadilla and all.  I had the recipe in front of me while eating and I didn’t scratch anything out or scribble new ideas anywhere, it was so just right.

I can’t wait to enjoy the other half tomorrow for lunch (I strongly believe you can’t make soup for one from scratch, just can’t be done) and hopefully be able to pass this little slice of wintery heaven on to some people.  It would probably be really good with green beans or asparagus too… 

Photo by Holliday
Mushroom Chowdah with Chicken (Serves 2)

  • 2 c Chicken broth
  • Cooked chicken breast, diced (season with sage, oregano and black pepper)
  • 1/4 c Rice
  • 6oz Mushrooms, diced
  • Diced onion, carrot, celery
  • 2 tsp Minced garlic 
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Oregano
  • Sage
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Thyme
  • 1 tbl + 1-1/2 tsp Flour
  • 1/2 c Milk
  • Parmesan cheese
  1. In saucepan heat 1-3/4 c chicken broth to a boil and add in chicken, oregano, pepper, thyme and rice.  Reduce heat to just below a simmer.
  2. In a skillet, heat oil and saute the mushrooms, onion, carrot, celery and garlic until onion starts to become translucent and veggies are tender.
  3. Reduce heat and add flour and 1/4 c broth to veggies, mixing well until all lumps are gone.
  4. Stir in vegetable mixture to broth mixture and mix well.  Cook about 15 minutes and add about a tablespoon of parmesan cheese if needed to thicken sauce.  
  5. Cook an additional 10-15 minutes until thick and rice is cooked.  Serve with jack cheese  quesadillas if desired.

1 comment:

  1. That soup would warm up any cold and wet day... it looks wonderful!