Originally created 10/20/99

Almost-instant classic



Nothing tops off an autumn day like a bowl of creamy, steaming chowder.

When you have a little extra time on the weekend, the tasks involved in making a tasty chowder -- chopping and sauteing vegetables; peeling, cubing and boiling potatoes; and perhaps shucking, washing and removing corn from the cob -- might not seem like much of a chore. But count it out for weeknight fare.

Not anymore. Today's recipe for quick corn chowder can be on the table in less than 15 minutes.

I started craving corn chowder when my hairdresser, Patsy Daimler, asked me if I had a good, quick recipe for the soup. At the time, my answer was, "Good, yes. Quick, no." So I went home and developed this speedy version.

Two slices of bacon are fried in a 2-quart saucepan until crisp. The bacon is set aside, and most of the fat is removed from the pan. In goes a package of leek soup mix and a can of chicken broth. A package of frozen Stouffer's potatoes au gratin (cooked according to package directions) is added, making this a chowder instead of a bisque. Then a can of drained corn niblets and some cream, half and half or milk are added.

The development of this recipe was a winding road. First, I pulled out my favorite recipes for corn chowder. One of the best, by Savannah chef/restaurateur Elizabeth Terry, began by sauteeing leeks. A cheesy chowder recipe clipped from a magazine called for au gratin potatoes. And my favorite recipe for corn and shrimp chowder from Second Round, Tea-Time at the Masters called for both cream-style and whole-kernel corn.

I made a quick trip to the grocery store and found convenience products that would allow me to eliminate many steps, while still turning out a pretty darn good bowl of soup.

I eliminated the creamed corn from the recipe after my first run-through because it has added sugar and made the soup too sweet for my family's tastes. If you prefer a creamier chowder, simply puree half of the corn in the blender or food processor before adding it to the soup.

If your family doesn't care for meatless meals, add some cooked, peeled shrimp, shredded chicken or drained canned clams to the pot along with the cream. For a lower-fat version of the soup, use fat-free half and half or evaporated skim milk. A few teaspoons of instant mashed potatoes will thicken the soup if the omission of the cream leaves it too thin.

Serve the soup with garlic biscuits. Simply brush refrigerator biscuit dough with a mixture of 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 teaspoon chopped parsley and bake according to package directions.

A seasonal fruit salad made with apples, pears, bananas and drained, canned mandarin oranges served over leafy greens with prepared poppy seed dressing would be a nice side dish.

Karin Calloway is a corporate chef and free-lance writer. You can write her in care of:
Newsroom
The Augusta Chronicle
P.O. Box 1928
Augusta, GA 30913.
Or send e-mail to karingca@aol.com.

Quick corn chowder

1 11.5-ounce package frozen Stouffer's potatoes au gratin
2 strips bacon
1 1.8-ounce package Knorr Leek Soup and Recipe Mix
1 14.5-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 12-ounce can yellow, whole-kernel corn niblets, drained* 1 cup whipping cream, half and half or milk
Dash cayenne pepper, if desired

Microwave potatoes au gratin according to package directions, about 7 minutes. Remove from microwave and break up potatoes with a fork. Set aside.

While potatoes cook, fry the strips of bacon in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon, drain on paper towels and set aside.

Drain all but 1 teaspoon bacon grease from pan. Return pan to heat and add soup mix and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, whisking well to blend. Add corn, potatoes, whipping cream and dash of cayenne and heat through.

Crumble bacon and serve soup in bowls, topping each serving with a bit of the bacon.

Makes 4 servings.

* For a creamier soup, puree half of corn in a blender or food processor before adding to soup.