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Friday, February 10, 2012

Souper Bowl Sunday: Buffalo Chicken Chowder

We host a Super Bowl party every year. Some years it's just our family and our best friend and his son, and some years it's a full-fledged dealio. Either way, there are recipes I make just one time a year, and Super Bowl is that time. Chili-Bacon Breadsticks, Buffalo Chicken Dip, and my mom's deep fried Crab Puffs: these are foods you cannot eat every day.

This year, thanks to Pinterest, I added something to our annual menu that is so horrible for you that it just HAD to be delicious. A little something called Crack Bread from the blog Plain Chicken. Yeah, like you should make that a part of your regular diet! It was inhaled. Literally inhaled. The whole thing was gone in under 10 minutes and there was an actual hand slap involved when someone went for a piece that another person had their eye on. No lie.

To counteract the need for a defibrulator the Crack Bread might induce, I altered up my usual Buffalo Chicken Dip and turned those flavors - which I consider SO necessary during Super Bowl - into a soup! A chowder, to be precise.

A quick web search proved that I wasn't the first genius to come up with this plan. The blog Closet Cooking had a really good jumping off point for a version that would suit our tastes and the big game, really well.

I couldn't be happier with this Buffalo Chicken Chowder. It tasted so absolutely delicious. In fact, our best friend declared that he actually liked the soup better than our standard dip. There really can be no higher compliment! This is going to be a regular on my soup rotation. I won't even have to wait for Super Bowl to make it! Yay!

Buffalo Chicken Chowder
Adapted from Closet Cooking

1 lb. bacon, thinly sliced
2 T. vegetable oil
2 lbs. raw chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 t. celery seed
1/4 c. butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/4 c. flour
6 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. Frank's Original Hot Sauce (or more to taste - I ended up using a generous 1/2 cup but we like things spicy)
2 red potatoes, scrubbed, but not peeled, diced
1 c. heavy cream
4 oz. blue cheese (plus more for garnish)

Heat a wide-bottomed heavy soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add in bacon and sautee until crisp. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon or with tongs to paper towels to drain. Reserve bacon. Wipe out the pot really well.

Heat the vegetable oil in the clean pot and when hot, but not smoking, add the chicken. Sprinkle the celery seed over the chicken evenly. Brown chicken on all sides, but don't cook it all the way through. It will get cooked again later when the soup is simmering and you don't want it to get tough. Remove chicken to a bowl, and reserve. Wipe out pot again.

Melt the butter in the pot. Add the onions and sautee until tender, around 5-6 minutes. Add in the celery and carrots, and sautee an additional 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, and give a brief stir, then add in the flour and stir to coat the vegetables well and cook the raw taste out of the flour, around a minute or so.

Add in the chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pot well. Stir in the Frank's Hot Sauce. Add in the reserved chicken and the potatoes. Bring to a simmer, and simmer 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes and chicken are cooked through.

Stir in the cream, and crumble the blue cheese in and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Add most of the bacon back into the chowder, reserving a little bit for garnish.

Serve, garnished with additional blue cheese crumbles and crispy bacon.

*** If you chill this overnight, the spice will mellow. Add additional Frank's to bring back that unmistakable Buffalo Wing flavor.

**** This makes a fairly thin chowder because that's how we like it. If you like a thick-cling-to-your-spoon chowder you can decrease the broth and/or increase the amount of roux (flour & butter mixture) you stir in.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Chili By Any Other Name: Smoky Chipotle Pork Chili with Beans

This. Is. Awesome.

This is so awesome that my entire bean-hating-won't-eat-chili family (who are these people?) scarfed down bowl after bowl of this.

Okay, fine, I had to call it "pork stew" until after they tried it and THEN I told them it was chili... but whatever works, right?

I'll be honest. This isn't the first time I've had to use lies word-play to get my family to eat something. Words are powerful. My daughters still turn up their noses whenever I use the word "squash," but they will happily eat a bowl of Harvest Soup. Main ingredient? Butternut squash. Several years ago, my youngest spooned suspiciously through her clam chowder and asked me what the "little meaty bits" were. With no hesitation, I answered "chicken" and we were good to go. And frankly, they still don't know that three Easters ago the steak they raved about was actually lamb.

They're teens now, and not as fussy as they used to be, thank goodness. But none of them, including Mr. Soup, will touch chili with a 10-foot pole. And with the epic snowfall the week before, I knew I wanted something hearty to serve to the people who came to the Soup Swap. This chili is absolutely perfect winter food. It has great depth of flavor, falling-apart tender pork, and the exact right amount of heat. The swappers loved it. And with a little mom-perogative treachery, so did my family. Yes.

Smoky Chipotle Pork Chili with Beans
serves 8-10

1 pound bacon, thinly sliced
6 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
3 fresh jalapeƱo chiles, seeded and chopped (I left some of the seeds in)
4 large garlic cloves,  pressed through a garlic press
1 T. dried oregano, crumbled
2 T. chili powder (I used ancho chili powder)
2 T.  ground cumin
1/2 t. cayenne
1/4 c. chopped chipotle peppers in adobo  (this was around 5-6 chipotles plus 2 T. of the adobo or so)
1 26-oz box Swanson's Cooking Beef Stock
1 c. strong brewed coffee (I used a Starbuck's VIA for this)
12 oz. bottle of dark beer
3 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Cook the bacon in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat until crisp. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and reserve until later. Pour off all but about 2 T. bacon fat. Season pork cubes with salt and pepper. Add vegetable oil to pot and heat over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Brown the pork in batches and transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate. Don't crowd the meat or you'll end up steaming it rather than browning. Add more vegetable oil if needed for the subsequent batches. Reserve pork for later.
Add the onion and jalapeƱos and sautee over  medium heat, stirring, until softened, around 8 minutes. Be sure and scrape up all the fond on the bottom of the pan so that it coats the vegetables. Add garlic, oregano, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne, and chipotles, then sautee, stirring, 1 minute. Return pork to the soup pot along with any juice on the plate and add the beef stock, coffee, beer, and tomatoes.
Simmer the chili, stirring occasionally, until the pork is very tender and falls easily apart, about 2 hours. Stir both kinds of  beans and the bacon back in, and continue to simmer 20-30 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
Serve chili with the usual chili garnishes: grated cheese, green onions, sour cream, and don't forget the cornbread!