Chicken, Cheddar & Corn Chowder is the perfect fall comfort food and can be customized to the cook’s liking. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Here we go – my favorite time of year: the start of soup season. So cozy. So comforting. Let’s gather those favorite fall recipes, get to the farmers market for our ingredients and begin.

Have you ever been to Pennsylvania Dutch country and tasted the chicken-corn chowder? This chowder recipe is something like that but dolled up by yours truly.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

You can change the nuance of your chowder by omitting the tarragon and adding diced colored bell pepper to the pot when sautéing the vegetables, or stirring in a can of chopped green chilis when the stock is added. I’ve also added a chopped fresh tomato to the broth.

Most important to this, or to any soup, is the quality of the stock. I always recommend that you use homemade stock, but I realize that it’s a bit of extra time and expense for that to happen. I don’t always make my own either, so I buy the stock that comes in boxes and cheat by adding a product called Better than Bouillon to the simmering stock. For added richness and chicken flavor, add a tablespoon at a time and keep tasting until it’s to your liking.

Frozen corn is fine, but fresh corn cut from the cob, including that flavorful “milk” is even better. And be sure those veggies are cooked until they’re nice and soft — no one likes crunchy bits floating in their soup.

For the buttermilk sticks, you can use different herbs, of course, or even make plain ones. Beware — they’re addictive! I’ve been enjoying them since I was a child, so I should know.

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And speaking of addictive, this “let’s celebrate something” seasonal punch is fizzy and fun. The recipe makes a big batch, but you can certainly prep individual servings for yourself to make any fall day festive. The longer you allow the cinnamon, star anise pod, and fruit slices to float in the cider, the better it gets.

Have some of these extra accouterments on hand for serving and dunk the moistened glass rims in cinnamon-sugar for added fanciness. Why not?

Chicken, Cheddar & Corn Chowder

6 slices bacon, diced

1 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1/4 cup carrot, diced

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2 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 cups chicken stock

1½ cups red potato, diced

1½ cups fresh or frozen corn

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

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2 cups cooked chicken, chopped

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, plus extra for serving

3/4 teaspoons salt

1½ teaspoons dried parsley

1-2 teaspoons dried tarragon

Fresh ground pepper to taste

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In a large Dutch oven or soup pot cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving 1-2 tablespoons drippings in the pot. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic and sauté until tender, for about 5 minutes. Add stock and potatoes and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in corn.

In a small bowl, blend flour and milk together. Stir into soup. Increase heat to medium and stir until thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low again and add chicken, reserved bacon, cheese and seasonings. Simmer, uncovered, until flavors are blended and cheese melts, about 15 minutes. Serve with extra cheese if desired. Yield: 6 servings

Herbed Buttermilk Sticks

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

Dash of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

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1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 cup cold butter, diced

1 egg

1/2 cup buttermilk, plus extra to brush on top*

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. With a pastry blender or your hands, cut in butter until coarse crumbs form.

In a small bowl, blend egg with buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in egg and buttermilk, stirring with a fork until just combined.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead 10-12 times then roll dough into a 6-by-12-inch rectangle. With a sharp knife, cut dough into 24 6-inch long strips then place 1 inch apart on a lightly oiled, rimmed baking sheet and brush with buttermilk. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Yield: 24 sticks

*1/2 cup milk and 1½ teaspoons white vinegar can be substituted for the buttermilk. Let sit for 5 minutes before adding to recipe. 

Apple Cider Punch

1 gallon apple cider

1 (25.4-ounce) bottle sparkling cider

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2 (12 ounces each) bottles ginger beer

Juice of 1 lemon

4 cinnamon sticks

4 star anise pods

Bourbon (optional)

Orange and apple slices for garnish

Place all ingredients in a large punch bowl or pitcher and stir. Serve over ice in glasses with garnish. Yield: 24 servings

 

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