February 9, 2014

A Souper Duper Way to Use Leftovers

"A delicious odor came from a pot on the gas stove. He lifted the lid. Brown meat juice bubbled up through carrots and onions, and a stick of white celery swam like a fish."
—Sweet Thursday, John Steinbeck
In the above passage, Doc comes home to find that Suzy has been making stew for him in his home. What a welcome surprise. I can't think of a more wonderful way for someone to make my heart melt (and my stomach grumble).

Soup is one of those comfort foods that's as low-maintenance as you're going to get. It's even easier if you have some leftover scraps from the fridge, calling out to be transformed into something extraordinary. I love leftovers. Mostly because I love snacking on them.

As for leftover ingredients like the last bits of meat on a rotisserie chicken, or the remainder of a pint of heavy cream leftover from making pumpkin pie? I love those for a different reason: They force me to get creative in the kitchen.

After the aforementioned pumpkin pie adventure, I had some heavy cream leftover, and I didn't want to throw it out. It pains me to throw out perfectly good food. So I came up with this chowder recipe, and it was pretty darn tootin' tasty, if I do say so myself. You don't have to be a mathematician to understand this formula: Leftover Chicken + Leftover Heavy Cream = Awesome Chowder. 100% success rate. (Granted, the sample size is 1, but still!)


Leftover Chicken Corn Chowder
Serves 2-3 appetizer-sized portions
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1 red bell pepper, cubed or minced
1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
1 tbsp Better Than Bouillon (or 3 cups chicken stock)
Leftover, cooked chopped chicken meat (about 1/2 to 1 cup)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Blue corn tortilla chips and/or avocado slices, to serve

Drizzle oil into a 2.5-qt. stockpot and set over medium high heat. Cook the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes for approx. 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red bell pepper, corn, and enough water (or chicken stock, if using) to cover by about an inch. Boil for 20-30 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are tender. Add the chicken and cream and turn heat down to medium. Add salt and pepper (or Old Bay, if you have it) to taste. Cook until slightly thickened (shouldn't take long). Serve with tortilla chips or avocado slices (or both!).

Variations:

  • Use turkey meat or no meat at all if you want it to be vegetarian. 
  • Season with Old Bay instead of salt and pepper (it enhances the celery flavor). Add shrimp if you want to pursue the seafood theme.
  • Crumble in some tortilla chips shortly before serving, so they'll be somewhere between soggy and crisp as you dig your spoon into this creamy, hearty soup.

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