I love making a big pot of homemade soup on a Sunday and pulling it out for dinner a night or two later after a busy workday. Little weekend preparations like that make it that much easier to get through a workday and anything that helps me wind down more quickly after a day at the office is worth it in my book. And this make ahead chowder is a great way to enjoy a dinner that tastes like it's cooked all day without doing so much as reheating.
This chowder is something of a hybrid of some of my favorite soups: the hearty thickness of a clam chowder, that cheesy quality you want in a broccoli cheddar soup, and a healthy serving of a variety of vegetables like you'd find in a traditional vegetable soup. Add in the smoky deliciousness of bacon and you have a seriously tasty chowder on your hands. This soup is certainly not for those who fear dairy as the creamy base comes from a combo of half and half, low fat milk, and cheese-- along with a little natural thickening from the addition of starchy potatoes. It could easily be made vegetarian-friendly though: just skip the bacon step and swap vegetable broth in for the chicken and you're good to go.
It's really a meal in itself, so add some garlic bread or oyster crackers on the side and dinner is ready!
- 6 slices center-cut bacon, diced
- 5 Tbs. butter, divided
- 3 carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed and diced
- 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups low sodium fat free chicken broth
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 2 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
- 2 broccoli crowns, chopped
- 3/4 cup frozen corn
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Tbs. all purpose flour
- 14 oz. half and half
- 3/4 cup milk (anything from skim to 2%)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
In a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon on both sides until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Melt 1 1/2 Tbs. of the butter to the pot. Add carrots, celery, pepper and onion to the butter and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and saute for another 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth, thyme, and potatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium, cover with lid and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in broccoli and corn and cook 5 minutes longer or until all vegetables are tender. Fold in the cooked chopped bacon.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 3 1/2 Tbs. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, whisking constantly 1 minute. While whisking continuously, slowly pour in the half and. Cook stirring constantly until mixture begins to gently boil and thicken, stir in heavy cream and milk. Continue whisking until no lumps remain. Remove from heat and pour into the vegetable and bacon mixture. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheese until melted. Serve warm.
Editor's Note: Recipe based on cheesy vegetable chowder recipe by Cooking Classy.