Perfect for those who think they don’t like winter squash
Chowder? Isn’t that about seafood?
Well, yes, often it is. But “chowder” is really just a generic name for a type of hearty stew—usually one that’s cream- or milk-based, and typically thickened with potatoes or crackers.
So why not a chowder built around winter squash? Squash has great flavor and is abundant in grocery stores throughout the US this time of year. Mix in some corn and bacon, and you’ve got a dish with magical flavor.
Dished up in quantity, this chowder makes a great main course for weekday dining. Ladled out by the cupful, it’s a starter you’d be proud to serve to company. No clams needed.
Recipe: Winter Squash, Corn, and Bacon Chowder
This recipe requires cooked squash, which you can prepare a day ahead. If you need a recipe for preparing it from the raw stage, see the roasting instructions in our prior post on Winter Squash Gratin. I use acorn squash in this dish, but you can substitute any winter squash—they all work. You could also substitute cooked frozen squash if you like.
BTW, exact quantities aren’t critical in this dish. You can use a little more or less squash, potatoes, or corn, for example, and still have a delish dish.
Prep time for this recipe is about 15 minutes, total cooking time half an hour or so.
This recipe yields 3 to 4 main-course servings, or 6 to 8 first-course servings. Leftovers keep for a couple of days if stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
- 3 or 4 strips of bacon (about ¼ pound; if you don’t want to use bacon, you can substitute 1 tablespoon olive oil for sautéing the onions and garlic, though you’ll lose a little flavor)
- 1 medium onion (about ¾ cup; I like red onion in this dish for the color—you might want to reserve a bit as garnish—but yellow or white onion works too)
- 2 garlic cloves
- ~½ pound potatoes (I use a waxy type, like Yukon Golds)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups chicken stock (may substitute vegetable stock or water)
- 1 pound cooked squash, either puréed or cut into ¼- to ½-inch dice (see Headnote)
- 2 cups frozen corn
- 1 - 2 cups milk or cream (more if you want a thicker soup, less if you want a thinner one)
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- chopped or whole parsley leaves, reserved bacon bits, and/or red onion slices for garnish (optional)
- Cut the bacon into ½-inch pieces. Place the bacon bits in a 4-quart pot or Dutch oven, and turn the stovetop heat to medium. Sauté the bacon until it’s crisp and brown. When done, remove the bacon bits and set them aside.
- Meanwhile, peel and cut the onion into ½ inch dice. Peel the garlic and mince finely or cut into thin slices.
- After you’ve removed the bacon bits from the cooking pot, add the onion and garlic and sauté in the hot bacon drippings until the onion becomes translucent (about 8 minutes).
- While the onion is cooking, wash the potatoes. Peel them if you choose (it’s optional), and cut them into dice of ½ inch or less.
- When the onion is translucent, add the thyme, diced potatoes, and chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender—when you insert the tip of a paring knife into a potato piece, you should meet no resistance (this usually takes 10 minutes, although it may take as much as 15).
- Add the cooked squash. At this point, I usually zap the chowder briefly with an immersion blender to break down the potatoes a bit, thickening the chowder (see Notes). After blending, add the corn, bring back to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. The chowder will be very thick.
- Add milk or cream to thin the chowder and simmer for a minute or two. (Add more milk if you want a thinner soup, less if you want a thicker one.) Taste and, if necessary, season with salt and pepper (I often let people do this at table).
- Sprinkle with bacon bits, parsley, and perhaps some red onion pieces (the last one is very optional).
- As mentioned, almost any kind of winter squash should work in this dish. Acorn squash has a particularly sweet flavor, so that’s what we tend to use.
- When roasting squash, I often do a big batch at one time and use it to make several different squash dishes. Like this one!
- I like to use thick-sliced bacon in this dish, though you can substitute salt pork if you’d like. Salt pork is actually traditional in chowders, but I prefer the flavor of bacon.
- I prefer milk to cream in this dish. Cream makes it a bit too rich, IMO. I use whole milk, but skim certainly works if that’s your preference.
- Frozen corn generally is high quality, and I never hesitate to use it in a dish like this. But of course fresh corn makes a dandy substitution (if it happens to be available).
- When using an immersion blender in hot liquid, make sure you use one with a metal shaft. With a plastic shaft you risk cracking the shaft. Ask me how I know!
- Oyster crackers or Saltines are often served with chowders, and make a nice accompaniment.
Hearty, Comforting . . . and Perfect for Thanksgiving
“Gosh, I didn’t think there was a chowder better than clam,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “But this Winter Squash, Corn, and Bacon Chowder sure gives it a run for its money!”
“It does,” I agreed. “And it’s a great way to use healthy winter squash.”
“I like having it as a main course,” she said. “But it would also be great as a starter for Thanksgiving.”
“Yes, it’s a nice way to include squash in the menu,” I said. “And just like our Winter Squash Gratin, this dish will appeal to people who don’t think they like winter squash.”
“Fortunately, that’s not us,” said Mrs K R. “We love all things squash.”
“And chowder is super comfort food,” I said. “Which we could use, given what the Red Sox are doing to our St Louis Cardinals in the World Series.”
“Hey, it’s not over until it’s over,” said Mrs K R, ever the optimist. “Go Cards!”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Winter Squash Gratin
Sweet Potato Soup with Chilies and Corn
Kale, Quinoa, and White Bean Soup
Lentil and Tomato Soup
Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup
Easy Lentil Soup
White Bean and Potato Soup
Or check out the index for more recipes