This comforting chicken chowder is packed with vegetables including potatoes, chard and corn. It’s guaranteed to warm you up even on the coldest of days.
There are few terms more accurately descriptive than “Polar Vortex”. It does just what it says on the tin (i.e., freeze your goddamn buns off). We are in the middle of one right now and it’s freaking cold outside. And because we have an old house, it’s pretty cold inside too.
And since Matt and I mostly work from home, you can see why we’re desperate for a hot, nourishing, tasty lunch. Luckily this soup is exactly what the doctor (and freezing film editor) ordered. We were inspired by a version of this soup from Bob’s Mountain Deli around the corner from us in Beacon. We look forward to them making this soup for our lunch orders every winter, but some days you just don’t want to leave the house. So this is our version.
I love chowder-type soups, but they can often be a little bland, both in flavor and looks. Many recipes use a lot of cream, white potatoes, white chicken and not much else. With this version, I really wanted to freshen and lighten it up a bit by adding lots of fresh vegetables. Instead of cream, we use a combination of milk, stock and my favorite secret ingredient for adding body to any creamy dish, cream cheese. You probably know this already but if you want to make a quick, easy cream sauce – cream cheese is your friend. Gently melt a few tablespoons of it (or its lower fat cousin, Neufchâtel) and you have an instant, thick sauce that you can flavor in multitudes of ways. It’s magic.
Note: we do use a little flour (in a roux) for extra thickening, but it you want a Gluten Free version of this soup, leave out the flour and add a little extra cream cheese until the soup has the consistency you like. You can also use corn starch or potato starch slurry (starch mixed with a little liquid) but add just a little at a time because the texture can be a little gelatinous.
Potatoes are pretty much a chowder must-have, but instead of the more common russets, we recommend using waxy red-skinned potatoes. The term “waxy” means that this type of potato is high-moisture and low starch, which allows it to hold its shape when cooked. They’re my favorite choice for soups and stews because they don’t get mushy and fall apart and they have a smooth, silky texture. This is especially important if you plan to have leftovers that will need to be reheated several times (which I always hope I do).
Aside from the standard onions, carrots and celery, we also add sweet corn and a few handfuls of chard. Chard is one of my favorite greens and we cook with it just about every week (but any leafy green would work, including kale and spinach). It adds just the right amount of vitamin-packed vegetable flavor, without overpowering the creamy soup base.
We actually used the last of our leftover Thanksgiving turkey but any precooked chicken or turkey would work well. This is a great use of a rotisserie chicken, leftover Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey or an extra couple of chicken breasts you might find. White or dark meat works equally well, though discard any skin before shredding the meat.
- Take your time sautéing the vegetables so they get lovely and soft but not brown.
- Use low or no sodium chicken stock so you can control how much salt you want to add.
- This soup reheats well and will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
- Note about dried herbs – because dried herbs are almost always more potent than fresh, use less (one measure of dried is roughly equivalent to three measures of fresh).
- 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- Coarse kosher salt (1/2 tsp to start) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped if large (about 3 sprigs or ½ teaspoon dried)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups (1L) low or no sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups (1/2 L) milk (substitute up to 1 cup of half and half for a creamier taste)
- 1 pound red potatoes (about 4 medium), cut into ½ inch cubes (450g)
- 4 ounces cream cheese (115g)
- 3 cups (about 1lb.) cooked chicken or turkey, shredded (450g)
- 1 small bunch (about 2 cups, ⅓lb., 150g) chard leaves, stems discarded, chopped
- 1 cup (5oz) fresh or frozen corn (no need to defrost)
- Preheat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Melt butter and add onion, carrots and celery. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and thyme leaves and cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in flour and cook for another minute. Gradually whisk in chicken broth and milk, and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid comes to a boil and is slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Add potatoes and bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 12-15 minutes.
- Stir in cream cheese until melted and add turkey, chard and corn. Cook until turkey is warm and chard is wilted, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. If the chowder is too thick, add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.