Warming Winter Chowder

By • January 26, 2015 0 Comments

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Author Notes: This soup is hearty yet still delicate, creamy but not overly so. I was inspired by impending snow to make a big pot of soup, and I wanted one that felt special but still weeknight-healthy. Don't be put off by the fairly long list of ingredients: it's just basic soup-making. The key is to take care with each step, sweating the alliums thoroughly, cooking off the wine, adding the cauliflower a little bit after the harder vegetable so that they don't end up too soft, tasting and adjusting at the end, and so on.

You can by all means omit or substitute some of the vegetables (just adjust the timing so that everything ends up tender but not overdone) and spices (many other combinations work well too). Do use fresh, waxy potatoes - yellow or red - because they are central to the soup. Using coconut milk and omitting the butter would make a delicious vegan version.

Serve, ideally, with some crusty bread and more wine!


Serves 6-8

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus a bit more for serving)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (packed)
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cups diced waxy potatoes (3/4"-1" dice)
  • 1 cup diced parsnips, preferably cored
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into medium florets
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-5 sprigs thyme
  • 2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups good vegetable broth*
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 handful finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon wedge
  1. Warm the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, shallot, leek, and garlic cloves, along with a healthy pinch of salt, and sweat for 5-10 minutes until vegetables are very soft. Stir often and adjust heat so that vegetables do not brown.
  2. Add the cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and parsnips, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the bay leaf, thyme sprigs, mustard, spices, and another healthy pinch of salt; stir to coat and let cook for another minute or two. Add the wine and let it cook down slightly, then add the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower florets and simmer for 5-10 minutes more; do not overcook. When all vegetables are tender, add the cream, turn off the heat, and let the soup sit for 10-15 minutes so that flavors can marry and mellow. Remove the bay leaf, thyme springs, and garlic cloves (if you can find them!). Add a handful of chopped parsley and a small squeeze of lemon. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding more salt, pepper, cream, lemon juice, parsley, etc. as needed. Rewarm if you need to, ladle into bowls, and garnish with an extra drizzle of olive oil.
  4. * Vegetable broth: If you have good vegetable broth on hand, fantastic. If you don't, it won't take long to throw together a quick, flavorful batch; it will probably add only about 15 minutes to your total cooking time. Chop up an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a couple of carrots, the dark leek greens from the leeks you're going to use, and a couple of celery ribs if you have them; sauté until lightly browned in a bit of olive oil. Add all of the stems from your bunch of parsley, a few sprigs of thyme, a few bay leaves, a small handful of peppercorns, a handful of green or brown lentils, a parmesan rind if you have it, a couple of prunes if you have them (a trick from Plenty!), a few mushrooms if you have them, and enough water to cover everything well. Bring to a boil, simmer for 30-45 minutes, and season to taste with salt. While it's simmering, you can prep everything for the chowder and get the first steps started. If you have only some of these ingredients, it will still be good, just not quite as rich (follows from the stone soup theorem).

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