Servings: 12 Prep: 15 mins Cook: 1 hr Total: 1 hr 15 mins
I wanted to show a fun way to freeze a soup base for a 2-part series on batch cooking and freezing recipes. Chowder seemed like a fun one, as I can create a rich and flavorful base, freeze it, then reheat it and add cream and any other last-minute additions I’d like to add at a later date. It’s an efficient way to get an amazing homemade chowder, in mere minutes!
To me a chowder is typically a thick and chunky soup, almost always cream based (Manhattan Chowder, notwithstanding). It’s usually made with seafood, but not always. It also often has potatoes or corn, but not always. It’s also very often thickened beyond what the original ingredients will create, usually with starchy wheat flour through a roux, crackers or biscuits.
With this recipe, I’m going to focus on two key aspects. 1. The batch cooking/freezer approach to preparing such a thing and 2. Thickening.
Because cream (even homogenized cream) can break resulting in a kind of scrambled oil slick, it’s best not to freeze it. The water molecules will expand and freeze into slightly larger crystals, breaking out of its emulsified state. When the water crystals melt, they leave behind the fat and some tiny lightly coagulated curds. However, the rest of the ingredients in a soup or stew base freezes quite well! So, it makes sense to create a strong-tasting soup base, without a lot of liquid, but tons of flavor. When this base is defrosted it is reheated with fresh cream, diluting the original potent flavors, ultimately balancing into a rich bacon cream with loads of chunky vegetables and substantial cubes of luscious chicken.
Cream isn’t always all that thick all by itself. It CAN be thickened through reduction, which is how I arrive at a thicker chowder in another chowder recipe. However, if one doesn’t have the time or inclination to go this route, but they still want a big thick comforting bowl of chowder, they’ll need to thicken it, somehow. Flour will obviously work, but I personally try and avoid carbs and grains. That makes it tough when grain based starches make for such great thickeners!
I’m going to use a combination of two different thickeners to do this. Please keep in mind that this is strictly optional. It’s purely for mouth-feel. These thickeners won’t impact the taste at all. I get asked about thickening enough that I felt I should write about my personal favorite method: xanthan gum (or glucomannan powder) and tapioca flour.
Xanthan gum is a zero-carb thickener. A little goes a long way. And, while it’s a good thickener, too much of it goes from a nice viscous mouth-feel to obvious slime. It becomes unpleasant. While the little bit of thickening from the xanthan (or glucomannan powder, which is very similar, in this regard) is a nice touch, it doesn’t bring the chowder up to the full thickening power of something like you’d find in a warm bowl of winter chowder. To get that little bit of a pleasant extension, you can use a little bit of tapioca flour or arrowroot. Combine the two with a little bit of salt, pepper and maybe a twinge of powdered sweetener, like Swerve, and QUICKLY whisk into your warm liquid. Start with a little bit, whisk it in and wait a minute to see the thickening power. Add a bit more if you need to. Keep in mind you can always add more, but once it’s in there, you can remove it. Tread lightly and add as you need.
Serving Size: Recipe will make 12 roughly 8-ounce (240 mL) portions.
Note: I liked this with a little bit of chili flake. A twinge of spice was a nice touch. I also really enjoyed stirring some grated cheese into it. DEEEE-LISH!
Thick and Comforting Chicken-Bacon ChowderPrint Rate
- 1 lb raw bacon
- 2 small red bell peppers seeded and cubed
- 4 each celery ribs cut into cubes
- 2 large carrots peeled and cut into cubes
- 1 small onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp celery seed
- 2 cups chicken stock or broth
- 2 lbs chicken meat skinless and boneless (assorted)
- 2 each bay leaves
- 4 cup cream heavy whipping
- 2 tbsp tapioca flour (optional)
- 2 tsp 'Swerve' or other sugar replacement
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- Place a large soup pot over medium heat. Chop the bacon into chunks, like large bacon bits (they’ll shrink when they cook). Add the raw bacon to the pan, stirring occasionally. While the bacon cooks, set up a bowl with a strainer and some paper towels to set the cooked bacon bits on. Cook the bacon until it is largely crispy and the fat has rendered out. Once it’s ready, pour the bacon into the strainer so that the bacon fat can drain into the bowl. Shake it above the bowl to get any straggling bacon fat, then pour the bacon on the towels. Scatter evenly over the towel so the bacon can dry and drain, without steaming.
- Pour about 1 tbsp (15 mL) of bacon fat back into the pot. Save the rest of the bacon fat for another day.
- Put the greasy pot back into the stove and turn the heat to low. Add the bell pepper, celery, carrots, onion, garlic and celery seed, along with a bit of salt and pepper. Stir to coat with fat. Cook the vegetables, stirring periodically, until the onions are translucent and the whole thing starts softening and becoming aromatic.
- Add chicken, bacon, chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring up to a simmer. Cover and allow a very slow simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes.
- To finish the soup: Directions to store soup base for later, are below. To continue finishing it from this point, remove the chicken from the pot and cut into nice cubes. Return chicken to the pot along with the heavy cream. Bring chowder back to a very low simmer. While waiting for the soup to heat back to a simmer, in a small bowl combine tapioca flour, sweetener, xanthan gum, chili flakes and a bit of salt and pepper. Tapioca starch and xanthan gum can both clump, fairly easily. By mixing it with these other dry ingredients, it distributes them into other ingredients creating a more diluted thickener, decreasing the chance of clumping. Because the chopped fresh thyme has a small amount of moisture, mix this in last. Quickly sprinkle half of the seasoning and thickening mixture over the top of the chowder, while whisking to incorporate it. Wait about 2 minutes to check the consistency. If it’s not quite thick enough, sprinkle a bit more and whisk. Continue adding in this manner until desired thickness. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve!
- To store the soup base: At the point when the chicken is soft and shreds easily, remove the pot from the stove. Pour the soup base into a wide casserole pan or wide shallow pot. Place soup base on a dry towel on its own shelf in the refrigerator. Allow to cool thoroughly and completely.
- Remove the chicken from the soup base, cut it into cubes and mix back into the soup base. I personally split this base into 4 equal parts (2 servings each) and vacuum pack the for the freezer. You could also freeze it all as one big bag, or place it in plastic containers. The point is, you’re storing the base for later. Just make sure you’re aware of how much you have, whether you’re splitting it, etc. Label and store for another day.
- To finish the soup from the base, simply reheat the soup base. Assuming you’re reheating the entire batch, simply follow the instructions above. However, if you’re only reheating 2 servings, then you’d reheat with only 1 cup of cream. While it’s heating, combine only 1/4 of your tapioca flour, sweetener and xanthan gum, along with the chili flakes, salt and pepper. Finally, mix in 1/4 of the fresh thyme. Sprinkle over the top of the hot chowder and whisk. Wait 2 or 3 minutes, taste, adjust seasoning and serve!
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