Monday, November 26, 2012

Mohican Chowder

A fabulous fall chowder of my own invention.  (P.S. Maybe the above picture doesn't help, but its very good, I promise).


1 qt (32 oz) vegetable stock or broth (or replace with water and save a buck)
1 qt (32 oz) water
1 pt (8 oz) half and half
2 cans cream style corn
1/2 can red kidney beans
1/2 can black beans
2 purple potatoes
2 red potatoes
3 carrots
1 stalk celery
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup green beans
1 red sweet anaheim chile
1.5 cups 13 bean soup mix (or any mixed bean soup mix you can find)
1/8 cup dry pearl barley
1/2 cup canned pumpkin or 1/2 baked acorn squash or kubutchen squash
1/2 cup chopped/cubed roast pumpkin or banana squash or butternut squash
1/4 of an onion (or use onion powder- I did)
2 bay leaves, thyme, cinnamon, fresh tri-color peppercorns (or white pepper, red cayenne pepper, and black pepper), a touch of brown sugar, green chives, and a touch of garlic (optional)- all in equal amounts; about 1/4 tspn; 1/2 tspn for cinnamon
Seeds of the sunflower, pumpkin, and any smaller squash
1/4 cup Mixed mushrooms, 1/8 cup craisins, 1/4 cup diced roasted chestnuts (all optional)  I leave out the mushrooms, but they fit with the forage theme very well.  Chestnuts are hard to find.  Craisins add some sweetness along with your cinnamon.

1. Get your vegetable stock or broth and water heating if you are using it, otherwise, add extra vegetables and get boiling for an extra half hour.  I started with broth.  While this heats to boiling, clean and chop your carrots, celery, chile, and potatoes, then add them with the pearl barley, dry bean soup mix and your anaheim chile.
(I should note that you need to follow the instructions on whatever mix of beans you buy; some require overnight or 2 hour soaks, or pre-boils.  My mix did not luckily.)
2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a high simmer and give one hour.  Chop your pumpkin and or squashes if you had them pre-cooked.  If you did not, then bake in a toaster oven enough squash and pumpkin.  My next week's post will be a detailed survey of over 10 variety of squashes, so I will go into more detail in that on how to prepare different kinds of squash, but basically, if its a pumpkin, it should be from a local farm, and ideally, be organic.  Store bought pumpkins are not eating varieties any more and when cut, fall into "strands".  A good eating pumpkin should be sweet when cooked and solid "flesh", so that when you cut a slice off the pumpkin and away from the rind, it can be chopped like a potato can.  A dwarf pumpkin is "strandy", but not the way a sphagetti squash is.  This will boil away and blend into the broth.
3. Add the rest of your ingredients, EXCEPT for the half and half and the seeds.  Return to a boil.  Then reduce to a high simmer again for 30 minutes.
4. Check.  If the soup smells and looks delicious, and the vegetables are as soft as you like them, then turn off the heat but keep the pot lidded and let sit for another 30 minutes.  (This is the method/time I used on mine, and I considered it perfect.  The veggies were soft, but not gummy/mushy and retained some of their own individual flavors when bitten.)
5. Remove from heat and stir in half and half.  (You could also leave this out to make the chowder more authentic as something the Natives and Pilgrims may have shared on the first Thanksgiving, but it will not be a familiar modern-style chowder.  It will be a darker soup, probably less sweet, but still very good.)  Add Craisins and chestnuts.
6. If the soup is not your desired thickness, stir in a little corn starch or flour to thicken.  I did not do this and if you use this amount of water and broth and half and half, I don't think you'll need to.  But this will not make a modern chowder, which is thicker than some hams I've eaten.
7. Spritz each bowl lightly with your seed mix, then ladle the soup over them.  This is another optional step.  I thought "chewing" my soup was fabulous as I like texture when eating and that was part of the intent with this recipe.  Natives would have probably added seeds to a soup, but this is not a familiar idea to most, meaning it is also not a welcome one.  
8. Suggested accompaniments are venison, turkey, duck, pheasant, buffalo, or any other game meat.  I'd recommend not putting meat in the soup, and also, I will say that of my 5 trial subjects, none wanted meat in it, including Teresa's parents.  (The first time I served my split pea soup as a dinner, the question asked by her father was "What the hell is this?", and her mother is such a carnivore she will apologize for serving you chocolate chip cookies without a side of bacon, so saying no one wanted meat in the soup does mean something, with my trial field.  However, I think the game meats are appropriate to the concept and delicious with a little chowder drizzled over as gravy.  The buffalo would be a little out of place, probably.

Hope you enjoy that one.  It came out perfect I think.  Its colorful as well, full of textures, and very healthy.  This probably will make you 20 bowls.  I have not finished the pot yet, but 10 bowls later, I still have what I would estimate as half left in the fridge.  A new annual tradition.  And a cheap one.  Assuming you already have the spices laying around, this rings in at about $8.50- 10.00 for 20 bowls of chowder, depending on what you pay for broth or stock.  If you have a little garden, it might be significantly lower than that.  Vegetarians and single people ought to be the rich ones.  But they get taxed higher.

Coming soon: My review of over 10 varieties of winter squash, or, as they say in Russia, winter melons.  Possibly a turkey drumstick sample platter.  And a Latino Corn Chowder inspired by South American cooking.

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