Chowders are, in my humble opinion, God’s gift to winter. Creamier than a soup, thicker than a stew, and one of the most simple suppers you can enjoy on a cold and frosty night.
I’ve been a mad chowder scientist this season, studying everything from cream content to stock variety to starch types. I’ve pureed, measured the perfect dice, and perfected sauté times. I’ve re-written old chowder recipes and come up with new ones. I even hosted a chowder party, in which three varieties went head to head in a heated battle to the chowder death.
I’ll tell you about the other two in a later post, but first let’s talk about this sweet pepper chowder with parsnips. It came out punching. Swinging. Ready to brawl with any inferior chowder that stood in its way and beat that sucker down to Chinatown.
Not only was it my favorite of the bunch, it was also a bit of a fluke. I began cooking it a mere two hours before guests were arriving with no recipe, a handful of ingredients, and only a vague idea what I was doing (this, by the way, I wouldn’t recommend for entertaining. Had the recipe gone awry I would have been terribly embarrassed). I needed a strictly vegetarian chowder to feed my veg-head sister-in-law, and when I am forbidden to use meat I tend to get a little twitchy.
I reluctantly cracked open the container of vegetable stock, terrified it would have no flavor and I would need to overcompensate with spices. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more mistaken. The flavors of the chowder all came together in some kissed-by-the-stars kismet: sweet roasted peppers snuggled right up to tender parsnips, all swathed in a creamy broth with subtle sweet heat.
It was a quick one-two punch, an instant knockout. And after all of my tedious chowder research using bacon, chicken stock, and various other carnivorous delights, it was this simple vegetarian version that took the cake. Sometimes that happens in cooking; try something new and you just might blow yourself away.
Sweet Pepper Chowder with Parsnips
Serves 10 as a first course or 6 as a main course.
- 3-4 bell peppers or 12-16 small sweet peppers (use only yellow, red or orange bell peppers)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ c flour
- 4 c vegetable stock
- 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped into ½” pieces
- 2 c corn (frozen is fine)
- 1 c half and half
- 1 1/2 c grated pepper jack cheese, plus more for garnish
Preheat oven to broil with the rack in highest position. Place peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil and broil 5-10 minutes on each side, until blackened. Remove from oven and fold foil around peppers.
Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes until tender and translucent. Carefully peel peppers and remove seeds. Finely chop and add to onions, sautéing 2 minutes more. Stir in flour to coat then pour in vegetable stock, stirring well to release browned bits from bottom of pot. Add parsnips and corn, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until parsnips are tender and mixture has thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in half and half and cheese. Simmer for two minutes more before serving. Garnish with cheese if desired.