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~Fall's Coming: Potato Chowder w/Caraway Cheese~

IMG_2317While Mother Nature is a force that can't be reckoned with, like any woman, she is quite predictable.  If you live in a part of the United States that celebrates four distinct seasons, you know there comes a day at the end of August or the beginning of September when you walk outside and say "Fall is in the air".  Today is that day here in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania.  The air is crisp, cool and clean, and, people are murmuring about a possible frost this weekend.

IMG_2164Joe spent the Labor Day weekend picking pumpkins and butternut squash (destined to become blog posts) and 'Winterizing' his gardens. A tree full of apples will end our home grown produce.  I've spent the past few days cleaning indoors, as well as organizing pantry and freezers.  I won't lie, I love this time of year and all of the comfort food that comes with sweater weather and mild but chilly breezes.

IMG_2124When the temperatures begin to drop, the school buses start running.  Two days ago I posted my recipe for ~ Eye-of-Round Roast = Back-to-School Sandwiches ~. You can find it in Categories 2, 10, 17 & 20, or, by clicking on the Related Article link below, and:

I love a healthy-dose of real-deal Russian horseradish mayonnaise on mine, and, I love this sandwich served with a special 'soup' that my Russian grandmother made.

Baba called it a soup, I call it a chowder, you'll call it yummy.

Witchs-cauldron-black-pvc-25432I call it a chowder because it is made in classic chowder-style.  Chowder is a thick, rich, soup brimming with CHUNKY food.  It's often associated with seafood because it gets its name from the French word "chaudiere", which refers to the cauldron fishermen made their fresh stews in over open fires (with clam chowder being the most popular and most famous). Here in America, chowders are made two ways, New England-style, made with cream and/or milk, and, Manhattan-style, made with a tomato-based broth.  In the case of New England-style chowders, the broth is rich and silky, NOT, overly thickened with tasteless flour.

IMG_2313I'm not making this 'soup' in a cauldron, and, neither did my grandmother, but she did make it rich and silky, using a combination of milk, a little bit of flour, and, in the style of what Russian peasants had on hand:  cured bacon, potatoes, carrots, onions, plus the added flavor of caraway seeds (which Russia is the world's largest producer of) via caraway cheese.

IMG_21726  slices bacon, cut into 1/4" pieces

1  cup medium-diced (1/2") yellow or sweet onion

1 cup medium-diced (1/2"), or "coined" if the carrots are thin, peeled carrot

1  cup medium-diced (1/2") celery

2  tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon white pepper

2  cups chicken stock

2  cups cream

2 1/2-3  pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled, cut into 3/4"-1" chunks

6-8  ounces Havarti w/caraway seed cheese, grated (or plain Havarti if you don't like the taste of caraway)

6 strips crisply-fried bacon bits, reserved from above, for garnish

finely-diced fresh chives, for garnish

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning at tableside

IMG_2184 IMG_2176~ Step 1. Prep the onion, carrot and celery as directed and set aside.  Prep the bacon as directed, placing it in the bottom of a 6-quart stockpot as you work.  Note:  All of these tasks can be done a day in advance of cooking the chowder.

IMG_2187~ Step 2.  Over-medium high heat, fry the bacon, stirring frequently, until it is crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Turn the heat off.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove bacon from the drippings and place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

~ Step 3.  Add the onions, carrots and celery to the bacon drippings. Adjust heat to medium-high and continue to cook, until onion is soft, but not browned, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.

IMG_2203 IMG_2200~ Step 4. Stir in the flour, garlic powder, sea salt and white pepper.  Continue to cook until the mixture is thick and steaming, about 1 minute.

~ Step 5.  Add the chicken stock and cream.  Adjust heat to medium-low and bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer.

IMG_2221~ Step 6.  While the "broth" is coming to a simmer, which will take about 8-10 minutes, cube the potatoes and set aside.

IMG_2236If you have extra time, grate the cheese too. If you don't have extra time, you can do this while the potatoes are simmering in the broth.

IMG_2226~ Step 7.  When the broth comes to a gentle simmer, add the potatoes.  

IMG_2252When the mixture returns to a gentle simmer, which will take about 5 minutes, continue to simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 12 - 15 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_2259~ Step 8.  By hand, sprinkle in the grated cheese (do not dump it in all at once) and stir until the chowder is smooth, about 1 -2 minutes.

Note:  At this point the soup is technically ready to serve, but I like to put the lid on the pot and let it steep about 15 minutes prior to serving.

Portion into warm serving bowls and garnish each with the reserved bacon bits, chives, freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend:

IMG_2290Fall's Coming:  Potato Chowder w/Caraway Cheese:  Recipe yields 3 quarts (6, 2-cup servings or 12, 1-cup servings).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 6-quart stockpot; large slotted spoon; paper towels; hand-held cheese grater

IMG_3427Cook's Note: For a classic chowder, you can find my recipe for ~ Creamy New England-Style Clam&Corn Chowder~ in Categories 2, 14, 17, 18 or 19. Either one of these chowder recipes is great for Fall picnics and tailgates too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


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