Monday, May 2, 2011

White Bean & Bacon Chowdah

A true New England girl, I love chowder in all forms. Okay let’s get real - I love soup in general.
Clam Chowder is my number one. (It’s the best on the Cape!) but this White Bean & Bacon Chowder is the next best. The diced onions give it a great zip and if you’re a vegetarian, the white beans are a fantastic substitute for clams (if you were going for the vegetarian/vegan version of Clam Chowder. It would be super easy!) Obviously, you would substitute the bacon for a vegan brand and chicken broth for veggie stock. 
Adapted from this recipe. I upped the milk ratio because I like creamier chowder. This one is on the brothy side (does that make sense?) and isn’t particularly thick. But in this case, it doesn’t matter. It’s SO good!
Additionally, I didn’t have any Sherry on hand (hello straight edge) so I looked up substitutes in this handy book gifted to me by Mum and also online. I found three common ingredients: apple cider, non-alcoholic vanilla extract and vinegar. On hand I only had apple cider vinegar and vanilla extract. Also, only vanilla soymilk. So I poured in about a teaspoon of the apple cider vinegar and extract and crossed my fingers it and the vanilla soymilk wouldn’t negatively affect the recipe. It didn’t! Whew!

In a soup pot, cook the slices of bacon over medium heat, until crisp. Remove and drain on a towel. Set aside 1 teaspoon (or less. I might just recommend less) of the fat from the bacon. Dump the rest - but not in the sink. Like my Mum, I collect it in a can and leave it under my sink to dispose of it later.
Add the sliced and diced vegetables into the pot in which the bacon was cooked. Saute slightly on medium heat (2-3 minutes). I prefer my vegetables to be al-dente in this soup. Up the heat to high and add the sherry or the apple cider vinegar/vanilla extract combo until evaporated. Return to medium heat.
Sprinkle thyme and flour over the veggies in the pot and stir. Pour in the chicken/veggie stock and bring the pot to a boil. Once you get it to a roaring bubble, bring it back down to medium heat. Crumble in the bacon. Add the milk and beans. Let the soup simmer for 5 minutes. 
If the soup is not thick enough for your liking, make a rue. Dump a bit of flour (start off with a quarter cup) into a bowl and slowly stir in a ladle full of soup. Do this gradually! It makes for less lumps. You’ll generate a gravy substance, which you would then add back to your soup. I did this also to lessen the saltiness. It worked, but I also had a cold, so don’t take my word for it! 
Season with pepper. Garnish with the half a cup of veggies set aside in the beginning!


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