Chicken & Vegetable Chowder
I love the idea of chowder — rich, full of vegetables, and hearty. Unfortunately, it’s often scant on veg, gloppy, and full of dairy. If you’re fed up with these chalky, bare, milky chowders like me, this is the recipe for you. It uses a vegetable stock for a cleaner flavor, but simmers corn cobs, wings, and thighs for excellent body without thickeners and a rounder flavor without so much milk. The only dairy is a cup of cream at the very end to bring everything together. You’ll love the variety of vegetables — including corn, cauliflower, and poblano — but of course you can swap things out to suit your taste. Yields 4 hearty servings, 6 for a dinner party.
2 ears corn
4 chicken wings
4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 tablespoon oil
2 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
3 stalks celery, (keep 2 together, 1 for later)
½ medium red onion
2 big cloves garlic
4 big shiitake mushrooms, (keep 2 together, 2 for later)
½ teaspoon salt
6 whole sprigs thyme
4 bay leaves
½ cup Marsala, Dry Sherry, or Red Vermouth
32 fluid ounces vegetable stock
1 poblano pepper
½ medium head of cauliflower
1 pound baby or fingerling potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
Set an oven to broil with a rack in the appropriate position. Line a small baking sheet with foil and rub with a bit of oil or a couple sprays of cooking spray.
Shuck each ear of corn, then cut in half and cut off the kernels, reserving them. Place each half-cob on the baking sheet. Place the chicken wings on the baking sheet with the corn cobs, skin side up.
Broil the cobs until lightly browned and fragrant all around, turning occasionally. Remove when done. Continue to broil the wings until deeply browned and crispy on both sides. Set both the wings and the cobs aside.
Slice the bacon into lardons about a half inch thick. Pour the oil into a large cold dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot and place the chicken thighs skin side down. Place the lardons around the thighs and turn the heat to medium-high.
Let the bacon and chicken cook, undisturbed until the bacon is dark brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon to a small bowl and let the chicken continue to render until deeply brown but not burnt, another 5 to 10 minutes. Flip and sear the other side. Remove to a plate, remove the pot from the heat, and drain off all but 4 tablespoons of the fat in the pan. If there’s not enough fat, add enough oil to reach 4 tablespoons.
When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin from the thighs.
While the meat is rendering, prepare the vegetables. Slice 2 of the stalks of celery into thirds lengthwise then dice. Mince the onion. Smash the garlic cloves to bits. Wipe, stem, and thinly slice 2 of the mushrooms.
Return the dutch oven/pot with the 4 tablespoons fat to medium-high heat. Add the celery, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and salt. Sweat the vegetables, stirring often, until they just begin to brown.
Add the thyme, bay leaves, and Marsala. Reduce the wine, scraping up the fond on the bottom and stirring, until mostly evaporated. Add the stock and nestle the chicken thighs, corn cobs, and chicken wings down into the liquid.
Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat very low to a simmer and tilt the lid askew to allow for reduction. Simmer at least 30 minutes, but an hour is ideal. It will cook an additional 30 minutes later on.
While the chowder simmers, prepare the remaining vegetables. Slice the remaining stalk of celery lengthwise then slice on the bias to form diamonds (you don’t have to but it looks nice). Top and seed the poblano, removing the white membrane. Slice into wide strips and slice on the bias. Cut the florets from the cauliflower, erring on the larger side as they will break up in the liquid. If any potatoes are larger than a couple inches in diameter (or length if using fingerlings), halve. Wipe, stem, and thinly slice the remaining 2 mushrooms.
Once the hour is up, add the celery, poblano, cauliflower, potatoes, and mushrooms, pushing them down into the liquid. If the liquid reaches above all the vegetables you can leave the lid askew. If not, place the lid back on fully. Depending on your stove, you may have to increase the heat to get it back up to a simmer in a reasonable amount of time; if you do, return it to low once it’s simmering again. Simmer another 30 minutes.
Double check to make sure the largest potatoes are done. If not, continue to simmer, checking every 5 minutes or so. If they are done, fish out the corn cobs, thyme, and bay leaves (count them!). Carefully remove the chicken wings and thighs. The wings will fall apart, but do what you can to get them out whole. Whole wings have 3 bones (2 short in the flat, one long in the drum), a bony tip, and 2 cartilaginous joints; try to get all of them out. Set the wings and thighs aside to cool.
With the lid off completely, pour in the cream, add the corn kernels from the second step and simmer another 5 to 10 minutes, while you shred or cut the meat from the thighs and wings. Add the meat back to the pot and serve very hot. Garnish with oyster crackers, celery leaves, chopped parsley, spring onion, the bacon lardons, and whatever else you like in your chowder; I like to serve it over perfectly cooked basmati rice.