I debated and debated over whether to call this Corn Chowder or Frugal Soup. If it wasn’t for the fact that our family has been calling it Corn Chowder forever, I might have changed it, because this batch turned into a big pot of “Use Whatever You Find in the Fridge and Freezer.” I like when that happens.
It all started a few weeks ago when I was experimenting with a Sticky Chicken recipe. I might post that when I work the kinks out. For now, it’s not sticky enough. But we ate the chicken anyway, and afterward I tossed the sad little carcass in the crock pot with an onion and made stock from it. That went into the freezer.
Last week, while making dinner rolls, I thought about what we could dunk them in. As it turned out, I had yet another carcass in the crock pot — this one from a rotisserie chicken we had the night before. I kept it in the crock pot so long it had cooked down to a beautiful smoky brown color:
Don’t you love the look of that? I read about umami awhile back … that being the fifth of the tastes (along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty). Umami is another word for “savoriness.” According to Wikipedia (and if you read it there it MUST be true, right?) it’s a loanword from the Japanese which means “pleasant taste.” That works for me. If you want to get technical, we experience umami “due to the detection of the carboxylate anion of glutamate in specialized receptor cells present on the human and animal tongue.” Really? Eww. I prefer to describe it as that sense of satisfaction that you can’t get without a degree of fat and intensity. We crave it, and without it, we’re not completely satisfied. I believe I’m driven by umami more than any of the other four tastes. Well, this crock pot full of condensed meat and bones constitutes umami. You just have to taste a spoonful of its richness to understand.
Were we talking about something else? Yes. Corn Chowder. Stock for corn chowder. Now, don’t think you have to run out and buy or make a rotisserie chicken just so you can have stock for soup. BUT the next time you bake a chicken (or turkey), do yourself a favor and throw all the leftover, uneatable parts in the crock pot, add water to cover, a whole onion and maybe a carrot or two, some garlic, salt and pepper, and cook on low till it all falls apart.
Here’s what I put in my chowder this time:
- a good amount of potatoes, diced (I probably used seven)
- chicken stock — enough to cover everything and give you broth
- 5 or 6 slices of bacon
- 1 onion, chopped
- a little cream or half ‘n half (I had fat-free h ‘n h I needed to use up)
- flour equal to the amount of bacon grease you render
- 1 can corn kernels (creamed corn changes the flavor of the broth too much)
- garlic powder, salt & pepper
In your big soup pot, put the diced potatoes and chicken stock. If you don’t have enough stock to cover everything nicely, you can add chicken broth or Better Than Bouillon and water.
In a frying pan, fry those bacon slices till crisp. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the chopped onion to the bacon grease and cook till translucent. Without removing the onion, add a little flour to the frying pan that looks like about the same amount as the bacon grease. This is hard to tell with all that onion in there, but just add a TBSP and stir it around to start. If it looks like you’ve still got a lot of liquid fat, add a little bit more. You want it to blend together without being dry. I always keep a small amount of bacon grease in the fridge, so if I overdo the flour, I just add a little more bacon grease. Let this cook a few minutes to brown up some.
Next, add your cream or half ‘n half. Like I mentioned above, I had some fat-free half ‘n half in the fridge that I needed to use up. I love that stuff … no one could ever tell it’s fat-free. You could also use milk for this if you didn’t have cream or half ‘n half, but it won’t be as rich-tasting. Still, is anyone going to complain? I didn’t think so. 🙂
Stir that around till it’s nice and blended, then pour the whole mess into your soup pot. Crumble the bacon and add that too.
Add the corn, season to taste, and cook until the potatoes are tender. This is a soup that gets even better with time, so if you make this early in the day and then simmer it for several hours, you’ll like it even better.
And look! Now you have soup AND an emptier fridge. Nice, huh? 🙂