Monday, November 28, 2011

Warm Your Tummy...and Your Palate: Spicy Confetti Chicken Chowder

We have to deal with brutally long, hot summers here in Texas. So when the weather finally cools off enough to eat soup, I cook at least one pot per week. Soup is great for many reasons: it’s a one-pot meal, it’s usually pretty economical, it gets picky eaters to eat their veggies, and it warms you up on a cool night like nothing else can. I prefer hearty soups that can be paired with crusty bread to make a perfect meal. Since it’s just the two of us here at Casa Garcia, a comforting pot of soup guarantees lunch the next day with enough leftovers to freeze for dinner on a busy night a few days later.

I was looking at the Food Network website the other day, and Paula Deen’s recipe for chicken chowder spiced with poblano peppers caught my eye. I tweaked it a bit for our taste, using one large poblano pepper and a seeded and diced jalapeno to up the spice factor just a bit. In addition to the carrots, onion, and celery that the original recipe calls for, I added frozen corn kernels and a diced roma tomato. I decided to name my version of this chowder Spicy Confetti Chicken Chowder, because all of the diced veggies look like festive confetti floating in the bowl!  

The chowder is a bit spicy, but the heat is tamed by the addition of half and half and a roux whisked in just before serving. To streamline the prep even more, buy pre-chopped veggies at the grocery store (I did...) and feel free to use roasted chicken breast or leftover chicken or turkey. I won't tell...and no one who tastes it will know either! During the busy holiday season, we have to save time wherever we can, yes?!?!?

Spicy Confetti Chicken Chowder
adapted from Paula Deen via Food Network's website

Step 1:  Add 1 tbs. olive oil to a 5-quart Dutch oven over med heat. When the oil is hot, add the following veggies: 1 large diced carrot, 1 small diced yellow onion, 2 stalks diced celery, 2 finely minced cloves garlic, 1 large diced poblano pepper (seeded), and 1 finely chopped jalapeno (seeded). Stir to combine and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tsp. salt, a few grind black pepper, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. dried thyme, and 1 tsp. dried cilantro. Stir to combine.

Step 2:  Add 3 cups diced chicken tenders (about 1 lb.) and cook until browned. Add 1 diced roma tomato and 1 cup frozen corn kernels. Stir well to combine. Add 6 cups chicken stock and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to med-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Step 3:  After 30 minutes, make a quick roux by combining 1/2 stick of butter and 1/2 cup flour in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk to combine...and continue whisking until the flour is cooked, about 4 minutes. Whisk the roux and 1 cup half and half into the soup. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. 

Step 4:  To serve, ladle the soup into soup crocks or bowls. Garnish with shredded jack cheese and chopped green onions. Warm bread with butter makes the perfect sidekick for this hearty soup!

I served this soup with beer bread that I prepared from my favorite mix. The toppings were the perfect flavor enhancer for this chowder...the icing on the cake, if you will. Some other great toppings would be diced avocado and crushed tortilla chips. I’ll definitely try those additions next time! This soup is very filling, and it warms you inside and out thanks to the spicy addition of the peppers! It’s also very creamy…the combination of the roux and the half and half gives the chowder a smooth and rich consistency without using heavy cream. A gal’s gotta save calories where she can during the holiday season!!

If you haven't done so yet, please make sure to enter my Red Gold Tomato Prize Pack giveaway below! I'm accepting entries until Wednesday evening and will announce the winner later this week. The prize pack is full of all sorts of cool stuff, including three flavors of diced tomatoes, a cookbook, and lots of other fun goodies!! 

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