3-4 slices/4-5 oz thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp paprika
3 Tbsp reserved bacon fat
3 cups milk
4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (place in cool water to prevent browning)
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
For corn chowder:
4 ears corn, shucked OR 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 cup leftover shredded chicken
For clam chowder:
2 6.5 oz cans chopped clams, juice reserved
For smoked salmon chowder:
1 cup smoked salmon, crumbled
Place the bacon in a Dutch oven and turn the stove to medium. Allow the fat to render and the bacon to crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and remove all but a teaspoon or so of the fat to a small bowl. Place the onion, salt, and paprika in the pot and increase the heat slightly. Saute the onion until it becomes translucent and begins to turn golden. Return 3 tablespoons of the reserved fat and the flour to the pan. Whisk to combine thoroughly and cook for a couple of minutes to encourage browning. Whisk the milk into the onion mixture and increase the heat slightly. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. Do not allow the chowder to boil. If it shows signs not doing so reduce the heat. Meanwhile cover the potatoes, carrots, and celery with water and bring to a simmer. Simmer just until the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork.
(Alternatively, the vegetables can be rubbed with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, sprinkled with a bit of salt, and roasted; however, this introduces the heat-producing oven in potentially undesirable ways. Perhaps when cooler weather returns because I expect it would be very tasty.)
Add the vegetables to the thickened milk soup and add the corn, the clams and liquid, or the smoked salmon, or really anything else that sounds appetizing. Cook until it is just heated through (if frozen or canned) or until it is just cooked (if fresh). Keep it warm and covered if you are not serving the chowder immediately. Serve with a few fritos scattered on top.
VEGAN NOTES: Omit the bacon and use vegetable oil in place of the bacon fat. Add 1/2 tsp liquid smoke with the liquid. Use unsweetened soy milk in lieu of regular milk. Consider adding baked tofu if you would like more protein. Serve with fritos (be careful to use regular, not chili cheese, which are not vegan).
GLUTEN NOTES: Use 2 Tbsp corn starch in lieu of the flour. Regular fritos are ok but chili cheese fritos contain wheat.
© Katherine C. Otterstrom, August 2012