Chicken Corn Chowder

This is one of my favorite soups because it is so thick with corn, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. I begged the recipe off a friend of mine after she gave me some of the leftovers of a batch she had made to submit to a soup cook-off at work. (The soup won, by the way.) It's flavorful and filling, and the porcini mushrooms give it a unique flavor. I have to admit it, the first time I made the soup myself I was worried about using the mushrooms because in their dried form they don't smell appetizing. (Think fish food.) They are delicious in the soup, though, so don't skip them. You can often find them in larger grocery store near the bulk spices. I usually buy some when I find them at the store and keep them for a nice snowy evening when this soup is just the perfect thing to warm me up.

Chicken Corn Chowder

1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2 slices of bacon
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half, diced
2 russet potatoes, chopped
2 ears of corn, kernels cut from cobs
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 packed cups baby spinach leaves
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence (If you have this, use it. I've never put it in because it's difficult to find and often $5 a bottle when I do.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1. Place mushrooms in a small bowl; cover with boiling water. Set aside 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook bacon 5 minutes, turning once, in a nonreactive Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Crumble; set aside.
2. Add onions to Dutch oven; cook 3 minutes until softened. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Add chicken; cook, stirring often, 4 minutes until it turns white. Add potatoes, corn, broth and tomatoes. Cook 4 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, slice spinach leaves into thin strips; add spinach, bay leaf, thyme, herbs de Provence, salt, pepper flakes, allspice and black pepper to chowder. Carefully drain mushrooms; add to chowder.
Increase heat to medium-high. Cook 10 minutes until potatoes are tender. Adjust seasoning. Stir parsley and cilantro into chowder. Garnish with bacon. Makes 6 servings.

Recipe Source: The Chicago Tribune

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