Once again, my foodgawker RSS feed provided me with inspiration! A few days ago, during one of my daily foodgawker therapy sessions–yes, browsing foodgawker is my personal therapy!–I came across a lovely photo of a southwestern chicken chowder over at Jana Laurene’s blog. Something about it simply struck me, and I know I had to try it. While I am no stranger to chowder, the southwestern take on a classic was a new one for me.
I must confess I tweaked the recipe quite a bit, either for ease of preparation (I was also baking potatoes and making cupcakes at the same time) or to accommodate my Mainer chowder-making sensibilities.
Okay, aside done. Back to this scrumptious pot of deliciousness! Okay, so I tweaked the recipe a bit. Let me explain that. First, ingredients. I used regular brown rice because that is what I had in my kitchen tonight. Not instant, not quick cooking. You probably could try this recipe with instant brown rice, but watch your cook time to avoid soggy, overcooked rice. I also used boneless chicken thighs instead of breasts. Though I love white meat chicken, I have accepted the reality that darker meat such as thighs is considerably cheaper. I also used half and half instead of heavy cream, because it’s what I had on hand and because I prefer a lighter chowder.
Second, I did not cook the chicken separately. Thanks to my wonderful enchilada experience, I have learned how easy (and tasty!) it is to cook boneless chicken directly in the sauce that will ultimately accompany it. So, for this recipe I cooked the chicken directly in the broth simultaneously with the rice. When the rice was done after 45 minutes at a low simmer, I fished out the chicken pieces, shredded them quickly with a fork, and plopped the meat back into the broth. Very easy, and very delicious.
Lastly, one critical, critical thing. Now, I know we all have our favorite style of chowder, and that’s absolutely cool. I live in Maine, and Maine has a certain chowder style. Typically, Maine chowder in a down-home diner-type environment is not thick. At all. It’s made with butter and milk or cream, but the broth is not thickened with anything. Over the years I’ve come to prefer this lighter (in texture, not by any means in caloric content) version of chowder. Thus, I omitted the 1/2 cup of flour from this recipe, though not without careful consideration. I measured out the flour and stood, measuring cup poised over my soup pot, contemplating whether or not to put it in. Ultimately I decided to try the chowder without it, and sure enough it was deliciously creamy and light just as it was. The flour went back into my flour bag to be used for cupcakes tomorrow. If you like thicker chowder, you may want to try the original recipe, which included 1/2 cup of AP flour stirred in with the half and half (or cream) at the end to thicken the broth a bit.
This chowder is absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious. The broth is creamy, light, fragrant, and delightfully spicy without being singe-your-lips-off hot. The chicken is tender and flavorful, and the rice adds some body and texture to the dish. Overall, I would say this is in my top three chowder recipes, and will become a regular visitor to our dinner table. I served mine with a sprinkling of shredded colby-jack cheese. If I had had some sour cream or an avocado on hand, I would have added both to the garnish. Jana recommended crunchy corn tortilla strips as a garnish, which sound delicious. I plan to try that next time. Unfortunately, my cat (who thinks he is a person) decided to try to eat my corn tortillas and the wrapper they came in. The tortillas did not survive the incident. Anyway, I hope you’ll try this soup. I am glad I did!
Southwestern Chicken and Rice Chowder
Adapted from jana laurene
Makes a LOT of chowder
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 orange or red bell pepper, chopped
3 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 4-ounce can fire-roasted chilies, with liquid
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 cups low-sodium or sodium-free chicken broth, divided
3/4 cup brown rice (not instant or quick cooking)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 4 thighs)
2 cups frozen corn (no need to thaw)
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt, to taste
Shredded cheese, such as cheddar or colby-jack, for serving
In a large soup pot, heat oil until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until veggies soften, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapenos and the roasted chilies and stir. Add the paprika, cumin, chili powder, and a dash of fresh black pepper. Stir and cook until spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Carefully pour 4 cups of the chicken broth into the pot. Bring to a boil. Stir in the brown rice. Submerge the chicken thighs in the broth mixture, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 45 minutes.
Remove chicken pieces from broth and set aside on a plate to cool. To the rice and broth mixture, which has now thickened considerably due to the rice absorbing the moisture, add the remaining 4 cups of chicken broth and heat on low heat. Shred chicken with two forks into bite-sized pieces. Return chicken to pot. Add the frozen corn, half and half, and cilantro. Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice from both halves into the chowder. On low heat, cook until corn is heated through, about 5 minutes. Do not allow the chowder to boil! Taste chowder for seasoning and add salt to taste (I added about 2 scant teaspoons of salt here).
Garnish as desired with cheese, sour cream, avocado, crunchy corn tortilla strips, or whatever else might strike your fancy. Enjoy!