Well, the other night, it was my new favorite soup recipe — Golden Cheese Chowder, submitted to the AFC PTC Cookbook by Margie Buhrow — along with a double batch of Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuits. I am, in fact, eating the last of the leftovers of the soup right now. It is at least as awesome as a leftover as it is when you first make it.
This whole dinner takes me a couple of hours to make. Actually, one night it took me close to four, and I’m still not quite sure what happened. But since then, I think I’ve perfected the routine.
I start off with the biscuits. It’s a great recipe (just follow the link above, cuz I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to type it all in, plus, they have a nice “print” function on their website). Even when the biscuits don’t rise quite as much as they should, they’re fluffy and so tasty I don’t bother putting butter on them. Don’t be shy about using your hands as he says to do in the recipe. I used to be friends with a chef, and he always said that hands are the best mixing tool ever invented. Just make sure you wash your hands well before you start, and scrub under your nails! You’ll probably be scrubbing under your nails when you’re finished, too. Another place to not be shy is when you’re flouring your board. “The dough will be very sticky” is an understatement. Once I have the biscuits cut out and on the baking tray, I stick ’em in the fridge until about 45 minutes before I expect supper to be served. Then I take them out, let them warm up for about 25 minutes, and pop them in the warmed up oven. I imagine if your kitchen is large enough, you could probably cover them with a clean kitchen towel and set them aside, but I don’t have room for that. Plus, we are a raw-dough eating family. There’s a good chance there wouldn’t be any biscuits left to bake if I did that. Putting them in the fridge is an extra layer of security (although even that doesn’t guarantee anything, I’ll tell you the brunakakor story someday).
Then I start on the soup.
I have made some changes to the recipe. It calls for Velveeta, and we just don’t buy that in this house. (If you do, that’s fine, but I’ve lived too close to Wisconsin my entire life to not love real cheese.) The recipe also uses actual measurements for some of the veggies, and I don’t feel like dirtying a measuring cup if I don’t have to. And third, the recipe calls for ham. Margie kindly mentions that she doesn’t always put that in, so of course I don’t bother, since I don’t eat meat.
Enough talking about it. Here it is!
Golden Cheese Chowder
4 medium potatoes, cubed (I leave the skins on)
3 medium carrots, sliced
4 celery stalks (outside stalks are perfect for this, so you can leave the inner ones to eat raw), sliced
1 small to medium onion, white or yellow, diced
3-4 c. water
1/2 c. butter or margarine
1/2 c. flour
4 c. milk
1 lb. cheese, cubed or grated (your favorite kind, or whatever you have in the fridge)
2 c. diced, cooked ham (completely optional!)
salt and pepper to taste
Put the vegetables into a Dutch oven, and add enough water to barely cover them, and salt (I use about a teaspoon). As they cook, the veggies will all settle somewhat, and the celery will cook down, so what looks like not quite enough water to begin with will turn out to be plenty. You don’t want it to be too watery. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover; let simmer for ten minutes, or until the veggies are tender. If the cheese sauce is not done, remove from heat.
Once you have the veggies all cut up, and the Dutch oven heating up, melt the butter in a 2 quart saucepan. Add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook for one minute over low heat, stirring continuously. Add milk gradually. Turn heat up to medium, and cook, stirring continuously, until mixture thickens and gets bubbly. Reduce heat to low and add cheese in small batches, stirring until melted each time. Remove from heat.
Once the veggies are cooked as you like them, add the cheese sauce, pepper, and ham to the veggies. Mix together and cook over low heat until thoroughly heated. If you aren’t adding ham, and the cheese sauce and veggies are done at about the same time, you shouldn’t need to heat it any longer.
According to the recipe, this should make 12 to 14 servings. Maybe if you’re serving it as a side dish. In my family, with four kids between 2 and 14, and two adults, we might have enough left for one or two people to have for lunch the next day, with maybe a biscuit or two to go with it. I consider this an almost one dish meal, rather than a side dish. It has plenty of veggies, and lots of protein from the cheese (and more if you put in ham). I make the biscuits in part to make sure there’s enough to go around, and because the first time I made it, the good spouse said it needed some sort of carbohydrate to balance out the protein and fat.
It’s also very versatile. I’ve added a bit of leek that was left from something else, fresh garlic, and fresh parsley. I’ve substituted garlic salt for regular (but not with fresh garlic). If you wanted to use broth instead of water, or add some bullion, you probably wouldn’t need salt at all. We’ve talked about throwing in broccoli and cauliflower. I think any kind of vegetable that you’d like in a soup would go well in this. And whatever spices, too. You could probably use chicken or turkey instead of ham, too.
If you have a helper or two, this would go much faster, of course. This last time, the good spouse was home, and did the bulk of the veggie chopping, which seriously helps. But I can do the whole thing, including cutting the veggies, in about two hours. I think I start melting the butter before I’m quite done cutting up the veggies, but you probably need to make it once before you know how much you can do at once.
If you make this, especially if you use any different vegetables or spices, let me know what you think!