Celery, Corn and Bacon Chowder

The recipe for this delicious chowder was featured on the blog “Kitchen Riffs”, written by John Griffin of St. Louis, Missouri. He tells us that in this recipe, as in most chowders, exact quantities are not critical. In other words, more or less of the celery, bacon, corn or potatoes can be used. If you don’t have enough Yukon Gold potatoes, other potatoes may be used as well. Remember to cut them into uniform size pieces.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
Servings: 8
3 to 4 strips of Bacon (about 1/4 pound)
1 pound Celery (6 or 7 trimmed ribs; about 3 cups)
1 medium-large Onion (about 1 cup when diced; yellow, white, or red onions all work well)
1 or 2 Jalapeño peppers (to taste, and optional)
½ teaspoon Kosher Salt (or to taste; if using regular table salt, use about half that amount)
12 ounces Yukon Gold Potatoes (2 cups or so, although exact quantity is not critical) other potatoes may be used as well
½ teaspoon dried Thyme
½ teaspoon Celery seed
3 cups Chicken stock (may substitute vegetable stock or water)
2 cups cooked Sweet Corn–cool, then cut off cob (frozen sweet corn may also be used)
1 – 2 cups Milk or Cream (less if you want a thicker chowder, more if you want a thinner one)
additional Salt to taste
freshly ground Black pepper to taste
chopped or whole Parsley leaves, reserved Bacon bits, Jalapeño pepper, and/or diced Onion for garnish (optional)
1. Cut the bacon into ½-inch pieces. Place the bacon bits into a 4-quart cooking pot or Dutch oven, and turn the stovetop heat to medium. Sauté the bacon bits until they’re crisp and brown. When done, remove the bacon bits and set them aside (drain them on paper towels).  Allow the fat to remain in the pot.
2. While the bacon is sautéing, wash and trim the celery. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the fibrous strings off the outer part of the celery (the convex surface). Then cut the celery crosswise into ½-inch pieces.
3. Peel the onion and cut it into ½-inch dice.
4. Wash the jalapeño peppers and cut them lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (be careful, the oil on these is hot; we recommend using gloves and keeping fingers away from your eyes). Chop the peppers into very small dice (or use a mini food processor). Then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
5. Add the chopped celery, onion, and jalapeño peppers to the pot/Dutch oven in which you cooked the bacon bits, then add salt to taste.
6. Sauté the celery mixture in the hot bacon drippings over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the veggies begin to soften (but keep the heat low enough so that they don’t change color).
7. While the celery is cooking, wash the potatoes. Peel them if you prefer and cut them into dice of ½-inch or less.
8. After the celery mixture has been sautéing for 10 minutes, add the potatoes, thyme, celery seed, and chicken stock to the cooking pot.
9. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the celery and potatoes are tender—when you insert the tip of a paring knife into a potato piece, you should meet no resistance (this usually takes 10 minutes, although it may take as much as 15).
10. Zap the mixture briefly with an immersion blender to help thicken it (breaking up the potatoes helps thicken the chowder). After blending, add the corn, bring the mixture back to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. The chowder will be very thick.
11. Add milk or cream to thin the chowder (and provide more flavor), and simmer for a minute or two. (Add more milk or cream if you want a thinner chowder, less if you want a thicker one; John usually adds about a cup.) Taste, and if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper.
12. Garnish as you like with parsley leaves, bacon bits, diced or sliced jalapeño pepper, or diced onions. Serve.

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