As fall approaches, my thoughts turn to chowder. However, at the Hilburn home, chowder is enjoyed all year round. It is the perfect "before the game" meal and would also be a good side dish for those burgers at a tailgate party.
I often get recipes in unusual ways, so it was interesting when I heard how Dr. Mike West got a new recipe for chowder. It seems that when he and his wife, Sheryl, go grocery shopping, he likes to see what other shoppers have in their grocery carts.
One day, he asked a woman in the checkout line, "What's for dinner?" She said she was going home to make a big pot of cornbread chowder. His reaction was probably about like mine would have been: "Cornbread chowder?" I like cornbread and I like chowder, but I would never think of putting them both in the same pot.
He admitted that by the time he could get it written down, he had forgotten some of the ingredients, so he and Sheryl decided to make their version using what he could remember and a few of their own ideas. They certainly did a great job, because it was wonderful.
Of course, I couldn't leave it "as is." I decided to make my own "South of the border" version using Mexican cornbread mix. I also opted to use Yukon gold potatoes because I like their buttery flavor.
No doubt about it, this is a very versatile recipe for those who like to be creative in the kitchen. As I was making the chowder, several other ideas came to mind. I know we don't associate cornbread with Italian food but there is no reason why we can't add a little Italian flavor to our Southern favorites.
For this one, I would use hot Italian sausage and a container of Italian cooking cream (marketed by Kraft). This product is found near the cream cheese in the supermarket. It could replace the cheese called for in the recipe.
If you would like to cut down on the cooking time, you could cook the potatoes and onions in water until barely fork tender and then add them to the other ingredients in the soup pot.
By the way, the following recipe makes a lot of chowder, so be sure you use a big soup pot. I had enough to enjoy for several meals and also shared it with others.
Another favorite chowder recipe is one we used in a cooking class. This is not my original recipe and I would be glad to give the person who created it credit if I could remember where I got the recipe for Cheeseburger Chowder.
South of the Border Cornbread Chowder
3 cups peeled and cubed Yukon gold potatoes
3/4 cup chopped onions
4 cups water
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound pork sausage, cooked and drained
1 can (11 ounces) chipotle white corn, drained
1 can (15 ounces) cream-style corn
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth (about 1 3/4 cups)
1 package (6 ounces) Mexican cornbread mix
1 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
Combine potatoes, onions, water, butter and salt in large soup pot. Cook until potatoes are fork tender but not mushy. Do not drain.
Add sausage, corn, soup, broth and cornbread mix. Continue to cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken slightly. This chowder will need to be stirred often to prevent sticking because it is a thick mixture. Add half-and-half and cheese. Cook until cheese is melted.
If the chowder seems to be too thick, thin with a little more half-and-half or broth. Taste and add salt and black pepper, if needed.
3/4 pound ground chuck
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 3/4 cups milk
1 cup frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Coarsely crushed corn chips, shredded Monterey Jack cheese and chopped green onions (optional)
In large saucepan, cook ground chuck and onions over medium heat until beef is no longer pink. Drain.
Stir in soup, milk, hash browns, chilies, taco seasoning and chili powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until heated thoroughly. Garnish with corn chips, cheese and green onions, if desired.
Prudence Hilburn of Piedmont, Ala., has won more than 30 national cooking awards and written several cookbooks, including, "Simply Southern and More." Write her at email@example.com or visit prudencehilburn.com.