How to Make Tasty Potato and Corn Soup
Potato Soup/Chowder Using Homemade Stock, Frozen Garden Corn, Dried Garlic and Herbs
I LOVE making soups and chowders. Not only does it warm your bones on a chilly winter night, it's also a great gift for sick friends and family! This delicious soup (or is it a chowder because it's so creamy and thick?) uses pantry and freezer items, so it's a snap to make when you need comfort food. I make my own stock, freeze my own corn, dry my own herbs and make my own garlic powder, but you can use store-bought items too. I've included links to my "how-to" recipes for stock and garlic powder.
There are lots of variations for this soup. Today, I used bits of ham, but usually I make it with bacon. You can also make it with red potatoes instead of baking potatoes. I leave the skin on to add extra nutrition. This soup freezes well, but since it has milk be sure to use it within 6-months. Non-dairy soups can be frozen up to a year.
Homemade or Store-Bought
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8-10 ounces bacon or ham
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
6 tablespoons flour
4 teaspoons homemade garlic powder
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary
4-5 cups homemade stock (chicken or vegetable)
4-5 cups baking potatoes cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 bay leaves (fresh is always best!)
4 cups 2% milk
3-6 cups frozen corn depending on how much corn you like!
Salt and Pepper
Prep Your Onions, Celery, Potatoes and Ham/Bacon
Just like when you are getting ready to cook something in a wok, it's best to prep all of your ingredients before starting to make this soup.
Thorougly wash your potatoes if you are leaving skin on. I'd say you need about 2-pounds to make a good heaping 4-cups of diced potatoes. I cut them into about 1/2-inch cubes because they cook more quickly, and because I think they fit better on a spoon when you're eating the soup.
I use my food chopper instead of dicing the onions and slicing the celery.
I cut my bacon or ham into 1/2 inch pieces.
Flour, Herbs and Seasonings
I combine the flour, garlic powder and herbs so that it's easier to stir them into the softended vegetables and ham/bacon.
I use fresh herbs when I have them on hand, but rely on my home-dried herbs in the winter months. If you are using fresh herbs for this soup, double or even triple the measurements listed. HINT: If you have never cooked with a FRESH bay leaf, you have no idea what you're missing!
I've written up my recipe for drying garlic to make your own garlic powder http://www.squidoo.com/how-to-dry-garlic I wait until I need it and grind the garlic then. The flavor of homemade garlic powder is SO much better than store-bought!
I've also written up my recipe for making homemade stock. I vary this soup by using chicken, vegetable and pork stocks. Today, I used vegetable. Homemade stock tastes far better than store-bought and is much healthier for you. You control what goes in it. It's also the "cheap" cooks way to getting every penny from her grocery dollar. And the variety of stocks you can make are just endless!
Cooking Your Pork (Ham or Bacon)
I put a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in my soup pot and heated it so that when I added the pork it sizzled. Today I used ham - which means that all I had to do was brown it up a bit. When cooking with bacon, you want to cook it until the fat is rendered and it is mostly cooked - 3-5 minutes stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Don't worry about the brown spots forming on the bottom of your pan (it's called "fond" by the way and is FLAVOR. If you can develop fond without burning your meat, then you are a great cook!)
Now I'm not a big brand-name person, but I just have say that if you are serious about making soups, then Le Creuset is the way to go. The enameled cast iron is perfect for multi-step cooking. My husband bought me several pieces a couple of years ago when I was doing a lot of cooking for a friend going through chemo-therapy. How I ever cooked without it is beyond me. Ok. Enough advertising.
Cooking Your Onions and Celery
Once you've cooked your ham or bacon, add the chopped onions and celery. I add a generous pinch of kosher salt at this point to season as well as bring out the liquid in the vegetables. Stir constantly so they don't burn. Use a wooden spoon or other sturdy spoon to get the fond (dark stuff) off the bottom of the pot. You want to cook the onions and celery until they are soft - about 6-8 minutes. About half-way through I add some freshly ground black pepper.
Add Flour Mixture: You're Making a Roux!
Once your onions and celery are soft, add your flour, herb and garlic powder mixture. What you're doing is making a roux. This is the "thickening" agent for your soup. Basically, it is flour plus a "fat", in this case the extra virgin olive oil and any fat rendered from your pork of choice.
Depending on how much fat was released by your pork (ham releases less, bacon releases more), it might make your vegetables gummy. Don't be alarmed! Just be sure to stir well, including the bottom of the pot, for about a minute (you might have to scrape the "goo" off of your spoon). Cooking for about a minute or so not only helps to break up the gumminess, but also "cooks" the flour so that it doesn't taste raw.
Add your delicious Stock
Okay, I'm biased and could go on and on about why you need to be making your own stock! Whether it's homemade or store-bought, add it now. Stir well. I like to "cook" this for a couple of minutes to help the roux get a great start. I'm on about a medium-high setting at this point.
My homemade stock recipe can be found at http://www.squidoo.com/greencooking
Add Potatoes and Bay Leaves
Add your potatoes and bay leaves and stir well.
For the next 30-45 minutes you'll be creating the "body" of your soup. Keeping in mind that you'll be adding 2-cups of milk, take a look at what's in your pot. This is a time for personal preference. If you like SOUP, you might want to add a bit more stock. If you like a thicker CHOWDER type product, then you might be okay with what you have now.
Bring the pot to a boil and then put it on low. After a couple of minutes I usually taste the broth to see if I need to add more salt or pepper. Keep in mind that you can season later after you add your milk (which will dilute the taste).
Cook the soup, stirring often. You want the potatoes to be fork tender.
Add Milk and Corn
Add your milk and corn and stir well. This is another time that you can personalize this soup. If you like corn and want to make it more of a chowder, then add more. If you like more of a soup, then add more milk. Either way, continue to simmer for about 15-minutes (or until corn has warmed up if you added it frozen and be sure to taste it for seasoning. You may want to add more salt, pepper or garlic powder. In the past I've also added red pepper flakes (homemade of course!).
Remember that this keeps well frozen for up to six months.
I don't endorse products but... - Le Crueset is the BEST cast iron cookware available
After scorching one too many soups, my husband surprised me with a red Le Crueset Soup Pot. This cast iron pot is covered in enamel and is the BEST pot that I own! I use it for everything. I know that the cost is prohibitive, but it is so worth it. Since then, he's bought me two other Le Crueset pieces whcih I use regularly.