So it is now day 3 of my One Chicken/One Week Challenge. You can look back on what I did to prepare for this on Day 1, and the North African Chicken and Lentils I cooked on Day 2. I also included a little insight on how to properly store your cooked chicken and stock on the Day 2 post…just in case the Food Police were out to get me. So far this week has been so much easier on me. I’m not starting anything from scratch every day and with my busy schedule, that is definitely something I need.
Tonight’s dinner was another really yummy, hearty and healthy meal. Usually creamy chowders like this have far more butter and cream than my version (and I actually don’t tend to cook with cream so I made mine with half and half but I usually use canned evaporated milk as my cooking ‘cream’) and they contain potatoes. I have absolutely nothing against the potato, I love Mr. Potato Head, but part of my initial cooking included preparing some pasta, barley and lentils to incorporate into the week’s meals. Barley is one of my favorite grains, outside of the oat. I love its mild and nutty flavor and the chewy texture it has. I also love how versatile it is. In fact, it’s wonderful in place of oats as a warm breakfast cereal. But I thought it would be kinda cool to use it as the starch in my chowder as opposed to the traditional potato. It was delicious and really paired nicely with the fresh corn that I just warmed through before serving in order to keep its natural crunch.
Another part of what I did on my first cooking day this week was roast some veggies for that night’s dinner of July Pasta. And I was sure to save my cobs from the corn in order to infuse extra flavor into the chowder along with the cobs I used today. This is something a lot of us don’t really think about and I had gotten a little lazy about it myself lately, but it really does make a great difference in flavor. Not planning on cooking any type of soup soon after having corn on the cob? Freeze your corn cobs until you do. Trust me, you’ll thank me. But the whole idea behind starting this challenge was to try to use as little energy and extra food as possible. So it really isn’t just about the chicken… the stock I have sitting in containers in my fridge, the carcass that sits in my freezer waiting to be used for soup, it’s about all the other things I did on that first day. I cooked pasta for that night’s meal and even though I only needed 8 ounces, I went ahead and cooked the whole box because I had the water boiling and I knew I could turn it into something later in the week (tomorrow’s dinner, in fact. I’m super excited about that one!) Then with all that pasta water that normally would have been wasted, I went ahead and cooked my barley, then after that I cooked my lentils…then saved the bit of lentil broth leftover for the stew on Day 2! Not a drop went to waste. It’s all about trying to rethink how we tend to cook these days. We’re turning the oven on and off, throwing water down the drain, washing pot after pot in scalding hot water without a second thought. It is possible to cook with less energy, it just takes a little planning. This whole experience has been incredibly eye opening and fun! (Not to mention easy as pie…or chowder.)
This is a simple meal, one that can be made in advance, even cooked in the slow cooker after you add your liquids.
*Corn and Chicken Chowder with Barley
-In a stockpot (mine is 5 quarts) heat about 1 TB of olive oil and 1 TB of unsalted butter on a medium flame. Add 1 medium onion, diced, 4 stalks of celery, diced, 2 fresh bay leaves (dry is fine) and a small handful of thyme stems and leaves. Season well with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Cook until the veggies are tender and the onion is translucent.
-Add in 3 heaping TB of flour and stir well. Allow to cook a bit for 30 seconds or so to cook off the raw flour taste.
-Pour in about 1/2 cup of dry white wine, stir well. Cook for about a minute, stirring if need be.
-Add in 1 quart of your reserved chicken stock (from Day 1) and stir well so you don’t have any lumps. If you heat your stock first, this will be easier, but I never want to fuss with using another pot, so just stir while you add your stock and you should be fine.
-Remove the kernels* from 2 cobs of corn, set the kernels aside for later and drop the cobs into the liquid.
-Drop in a handful of chives and basil stems (reserve the basil leaves for later. Wrap them in a damp paper towel and place in a zip bag in the fridge and they should be fine for a couple hours.) You can wrap the chives and stems in twine, along with the bay leaves and thyme stems, if you wish, but I never mind fishing out bay leaves and stems in a soup. You can always play the ‘whoever gets the leaf, gets a prize!’ game.
-Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about an hour. This should be enough time to reduce the liquid and thicken the soup. (If you’re doing this ahead of time, cool the pot completely, cover it and refrigerate it. Pull it out and place it over a low flame to bring back to temp.)
-When you’re ready to serve, remove the cobs, leaves and stems, etc. And if you really wanna be fussy about it, take a metal spoon to your naked cobs and scrape off all the corn juice and bits of corn still clinging to the cobs. Pour in about 1/2 cup or so of half and half, cream or evaporated milk and stir. Add in about 1 cup of shredded, cooked chicken (again, from Day 1) and your reserved kernels of corn. Stir to warm them through.
-Place about 1/4-1/3 cup of cooked barley (from Day 1) into each serving bowl and pour some chowder over the top.
-Garnish each plate with finely chopped basil.