Smoked Chicken Chowder: a smoky soup recipe
Creamy, smoky, and spicy, this soup makes a hearty meal.
I've been making this delicious chowder for years now, and over those years I have tweaked and perfected the recipe. It elicits "Oh wow!" responses from everyone who tries it. In fact, every year at Christmas, my brother and father-in-law tell me "instead of a gift under the tree, all I want from you is a big Tupperware container of "that soup!" With all the chopping and dicing, smoked chicken chowder can be time-consuming to make (although it is not difficult at all). It usually takes me about 2 hours from start to finish. However, this chowder is perfectly scrumptious and absolutely worth the effort. Cook up a pot and experience the deliciousness for yourself!
GATHER YOUR INGREDIENTS
• 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
• Olive oil for drizzling over corn
• 12-oz. or 16-oz package of bacon
• 3 medium or 2 large onions, chopped quite small
• 2 medium or 1 large potato, peeled and diced about 1/2 or 1/4 inch
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 (or to taste) fresh jalapenos, seeded and minced fine
• 1/4 cup flour
• 3 cans chicken broth
• 2 cups (one pint) heavy cream
• 1 can petite diced tomatoes, juice drained (I prefer the fire-roasted ones, but can't always find them. Regular ones will do fine.)
• 1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, plus additional for garnish
• 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
•2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped fine or pureed, (the canned kind – but 2 chiles, not 2 cans of chiles)
•1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. of adobo sauce from the can of chiles (to taste – it’s very hot)
• 1 pound of smoked chicken breast with skin, bones and fat removed, diced into approx. 1/2” pieces. (The BBQ restaurant in my area sell it boneless by the pound.)
• Salt and pepper
• Chopped green onions for garnish
MAKE THE CHOWDER
Line a baking pan with foil. Spread thawed corn into the pan in a shallow layer, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast at 400° for about 15-20 minutes, stirring after about 10 minutes. Roast until corn is golden brown, but do not let it burn.
While the corn is roasting, fry the bacon in a skillet until crisp. Drain bacon drippings into large stock pot. Set bacon aside.
In the stockpot, sauté the onions in the bacon drippings over medium heat until clear and tender. Add potatoes, garlic, and jalapenos. Sauté and stir for a minute or two. Stir in flour and sauté over medium-low heat, stirring, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until potatoes are tender. Add tomatoes, roasted corn, Monterrey Jack cheese, cilantro, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce and chicken. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream and heat through until steaming, but do not boil.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chop the bacon. You can add the bacon into the soup all at once at this point, or crumble some atop each individual bowl of soup. Garnish each serving with additional Monterrey Jack cheese and chopped green onions.
NOTES ABOUT THIS CHOWDER
If you want to save time, you can use a package of precooked bacon and sauté the onions in about 1/4 cup olive oil. Another time saver I sometimes use is to throw in a can of diced potatoes (drained) instead of peeling and dicing a raw potato. Chopped garlic in a jar is a time saver as well.
If there isn't a smokehouse or BBQ restaurant in your area where you can purchase smoked chicken, you can smoke chicken yourself. My husband is very particular about grilling steaks; he likes to cook steaks on a charcoal fire only. He prepares a really hot fire, then cooks the steaks for only a few minutes. He hates for the fire to "go to waste," so once the steaks are off the grill he usually adds a chicken in a beer can stand, and covers the grill to let the chicken smoke awhile. I wish I could give more complete directions than that. I'm afraid "How to Smoke a Chicken" is a whole other hub I'll have to write later!
When I mince jalapenos, I always wear a plastic baggie over my left hand (I'm right handed, so while my right hand holds the knife, my left hand is the one that actually touches the jalapenos). This keeps my hands from direct contact with the jalapenos. If you've ever touched a juicy, fresh-cut, jalapeno, then used your fingers to rub your eye, you'll know why fingers that have touched such a pepper should never touch your eyes. A thorough hand washing helps a little, but not completely. Rubber gloves will work also, but I prefer the thinness and toss-it convenience of a plastic baggie.
My family eats this chowder as a meal. At our home, this meal is not complete without Pepperidge Farm 5-cheese garlic bread, or Marzetti New York 5-cheese Texas Toast. (I love that name, "New York Texas Toast," whatever that means, LOL.) These thick-sliced, buttery, cheesy breads with soft centers and crunchy crusts are found in the freezer section of your grocery store. They are a dieter's nightmare, but are so yummy with smoked chicken chowder.
I often make this chowder for special occasions. I made it one cold winter night when I was hosting a group of ladies whom I was trying hard to impress with my hostessing skills, I left the pot simmering on the stove for quite a while that evening, even after we had eaten. As we played cards and visited after dinner, we enjoyed the warmth of the stove and the mingling of aromas as the soup simmered. Luckily we ate our fill of chowder early that night. After everyone left I realized that the cream in the chowder had curdled, and my delicious dinner was now a sour, disgusting mess. My poor husband was so looking forward to leftovers the next day! The chance that the cream could curdle is why I recommend adding the it last, then heating the chowder until it is steaming but not boiling. Simmering the cream for a few minutes won't hurt, but please don't simmer it for hours like I did!
What I love about this chowder (in addition to how delicious it is) is that is has a gourmet taste, but I can purchase all the ingredients, with the exception of perhaps the smoked chicken, at my good ol' local grocery store. Another great thing about this chowder, and what makes it perfect for entertaining, is that I can make it a day or two ahead and simply reheat it the day of my party. It freezes well also.