What is a chowder?
It’s a thick soup made with milk or cream. There are three ways to thicken a chowder. The first is the addition of crushed biscuit or crackers that soften in the liquid. The second is by making a roux and using it as a base for making the soup. The third is by adding potatoes or other starchy root vegetable.
Where did chowders originate?
No one really knows. The popular belief is that it was developed during long sea voyages. Bounty from the sea was cooked into soup and, to make the soup more filling for hungry seafarers, broken hardtack (a hard biscuit) was thrown in.
What can go into a chowder?
Seafood is the most common. If chowder’s origin as a shipboard dish is accurate, that would make sense. But, today, almost anything can be cooked into a chowder. Meat, poultry, vegetables…
Among my favorite chowders is this cold weather soup that’s perfect to feed a crowd. Broccoli and carrot chowder can be chunky or smooth, or both, depending on how you like it.
You’ll need two pots to cook this soup. The first is for the broth in which you’re going to cook the carrot and broccoli. You do have to tenderize them before pureeing. Because carrot takes longer to cook, it goes into the hot broth first. The broccoli follows. Ideally, they should get cooked at the same time.
The second pot is for making the roux. This is a chowder, after all, and a thickening agent is required. While a roux, by definition, is just fat and flour, in this case, onion and thyme are sauteed in butter before the flour is added.
The hot broth in which the carrot and broccoli had cooked is ladled little by little into the roux. There is no strict rule here as to how much or how little broth you can add. It depends on how thick you want your chowder. Note, though, that you’ll be adding cream later and that will thicken the soup even more.
Time for some seasoning. And time for the fully cooked carrot and broccoli to get added to the thickened soup. You may add all the carrot and vegetables but I reserved some because I wanted to a few chunks of vegetables in the soup to give it a more interesting texture.
Off the heat, an immersion blender is plunged in and the vegetables are pureed directly into the soup. You may puree the carrot cubes and broccoli florets into smithereens or you may turn off your immersion blender while there are still visible specks of green and orange.
Now, the cream. Put the pan back on the stove, pour in the cream, stir and adjust the seasonings one last time. Allow the soup to come to a simmer before serving.
Broccoli and carrot chowder
- Heat the broth in a pot.
- Add the carrot cubes and simmer for five minutes.
- Drop in the broccoli florets and simmer the vegetables for another five minutes.
- While the vegetables cook, in another pot, melt the butter.
- Sautee the onion and thyme in the butter for about a minute.
- Add the flour all at once and stir to make a roux.
- Cook the roux, stirring often, for three to four minutes.
- While the roux cooks, scoop out a cup of carrot and broccoli florets from the other pot and reserve.
- Slowly drizzle a cup of broth into the roux, mixing as your pour.
- Repeat until the roux and broth mixture reaches a consistency to your liking (you may or may not use up all the broth, depending on how thick you want your chowder).
- Taste the thickened soup, and add salt and pepper, as needed.
- Scoop out the remaining vegetables in the other pot and add to the thickened soup.
- Take the pan off the heat, plunge in your immersion blender and puree the vegetables as smoothly or as coarsley as you like.
- Put the pan back on the stove over low heat, stir in the reserved carrot cubes and broccoli florets, and bring the chowder to a simmer.
- Pour in the cream, stir, and taste the soup. Add more salt and pepper, if needed.
- When the soup comes to a simmer once more, turn off the heat.
- Serve your broccoli and carrot chowder at once.