Maine Potato Chowder

#RecipeUpTop:
4 slices bacon
2 cans corn (or fresh equivalent, in season)
1 red bell pepper
1 small yellow onion
3 celery stalks
4 large Maine potatoes
1 quart chicken stock (optional)
Whole Milk (to taste)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Method: In the bottom of a large dutch oven or sauce pot, render the bacon on low heat until crispy. Remove, and set aside. Dice the onion, pepper, and celery, and sweat in the rendered bacon fat with a little salt to help the process. Add corn and potatoes, cover with stock or water and simmer until potatoes are done. Add whole milk to desired level, and add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with crispy bacon and green onion.

More detail:

I’ve invested in a bunch of enameled cast iron cookware, mostly bought either second-hand or from outlet stores on discount. I love this stuff, and this soup is a showcase for why. Step one, render the bacon:

You can see some splotches on the lid to the left. These are from high-heat baking in the oven. We’ll get to that.

While that’s going on low heat, dice up your aromatics. The combination of bell pepper, onion, and celery is actually a cajun standard they call the Holy Trinity. It’s an adjustment from the classic French mirepiox, which has carrot in place of the bell pepper. Anyway, here’s what it looks like:

Of note, in this recipe the only “seasonings” are salt and pepper. The entirety of the flavors come from this base, and the technique with the other ingredients. The bacon fat, for instance, will pull a ton fat-soluble flavors from the aromatics here. The reason I bring this up is because: (1) it tastes better than trying to add a lot of powdered seasonings; and (2) it’s an example of cooking CHEAP. This meal works out to like a nickle a bowl.

Anyway, everyone goes in the pool in LOW HEAT, with a generous sprinkling of salt:

You can see the bacon bits left on the bottom of the pan. When the aromatics release their liquid, it will dissolve all that goodness into the final product. This is something these pots/pans are REALLY good at.

Low heat here is critical, as we’re not trying to saute or caramelize these ingredients, and the salt is equally important for the same reason: we’re just trying to extract all the flavors of the aromatics. Think of it like juicing without the juicer. Anyway, after about ten minutes, it’ll look like this:

This is the start of so, so many great things.

At this point, the corn goes in. You’re free to use frozen corn, but for whatever reason, I actually prefer canned. It’s cheap, I think it tastes better than frozen, and it’s ready immediately. Pump the heat a bit to compensate for the thermal load of room temp (or frozen) corn headed into the pot. From here, we’re going to be adding potatoes and liquid pretty quickly, and want to get it up to a boil after:

Okay, time to talk potatoes. Part of this whole experiment is living cheaply, but trying to buy locally. This soup is a perfect nexus of those concepts because Maine potatoes are local and cheap. And really, really delicious:

From here, it’s almost autopilot. Cover the mix with either water or (if you prefer) chicken stock. My only caution is using stock is going to add a goodly dose of fat, in a dish that already has bacon and whole milk, so… you do you. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender:

At this point, add whole milk to your desired creamy-ness, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper:

You can see the delicious sheen reflecting the light. This is why I’m cautioning against using chicken stock.

Plate it up with the crispy bacon we cooked earlier, and some green onion. Extra great with some pilot or oyster crackers, or a crusty baguette (also homemade, but that’s a different post):

Hnnnnnggggg

So, again, this is an extremely cheap meal. That said, it can be spiced up with some fish or lobster if you’re in the mood. Or, just eat it from a serving bowl with a ladle like me.

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