Monday, December 3, 2007

Comfort and Joy

I'm back! As many of you know, I recently made a move north (but it feels like I went south!) from Winter Park to Birmingham, Ala. No excuses here, but it's been tough to get back in the blogging routine. I wasn't cooking much when I first moved, but since I've gotten settled, my new favorite thing is cooking on a budget. New job, new financial lessons...Jason and I are trying to stick to a $60-a-week grocery budget for dinners, which isn't measly but it definitely can be a challenge if you want to make fun and interesting things. Anyway, you can be assured that the recipes I share with you are frugal as well as fabulous.

Even though we're only a few states away, the fall weather here in Alabama is very different than it is in Florida. It was extra chilly today—the perfect weather for a bowl of hot soup. Or, as the case may be, chowder. I've always been a chowder lover. Clam, corn, name it, I like it. But I must admit I haven't ever made one that I didn't feel terribly guilty for making, let alone eating. Cream, butter, bacon...all the (good) bad stuff is what makes it delicious. Or so I thought.

Equally inspired by this recipe from Gourmet and by my new YMCA membership, I decided to lighten up a creamy chowder as best I could. The results were, I must admit, surprisingly satisfying. It's a sort of Southwest twist on a corn and chicken chowder with a hint of warm smokiness. (If you've never used smoked paprika, you're in for a treat.) It's slightly spicy and delightfully creamy. Jason even said it was one of the best soups he's ever had. I hope you'll agree.

Smoky Chicken Chowder

serves 4
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large russet potato or 2 medium yukon golds, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 canned chipotle in adobo, minced fine (about 1 teaspoon)
1 can diced tomatoes, lightly drained
1 11-ounce can Del Monte Summer Crisp corn (or frozen, or fresh)
1 or 2 chicken breasts, in bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in a few tablespoons of milk
1 cup fat free half and half
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Garnish: Chopped cilantro

In a heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened. Season with a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Add potato and garlic and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Stir in flour and smoked paprika, and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Whisk in broth and bring to a boil, stirring. Add tomatoes, corn and chipotle, and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add chicken and cornstarch mixture, and cook 5 to 10 minutes more, until chicken is cooked.

Off the heat, add half and half and cheese, and stir to combine. Top with cilantro, if desired.

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