At a family gathering on Christmas day, my aunt Anne asked me, what's your favorite comfort food? I knew my response immediately: soup. I love soup! I find it the most comforting food in the winter and even on a cold summer's night. I love it in all forms, purees, broths, chowders, creams, stews. If it's bubbling, hot and full of flavor, I want to eat it. I'm not the only one who loves soup, because January happens to be National Soup month!
In honor of my aunt who started me on the subject of soups, tonight I will make her favorite bacon and crab chowder. I'll make others throughout the month (if you've got an awesome soup recipe, add it to the recipe database), but tonight I celebrate with chowder. To make my beloved comfort food,
Extra-virgin olive oil
6 slices of bacon, chopped
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 large onion, chopped
4 celery ribs from the heart with leaves, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
6 cups whole milk
12 ounces lump crab meat, from the seafood counter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
3 tablespoons dry Sherry
4 tablespoons snipped chives
Oyster crackers, optional
- Put a medium pot over medium high heat, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the bacon and cook until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- Pour off a little of the bacon fat, leaving a thin, even layer.
- Add the potatoes, onion, celery, bell pepper and bay leaf to the pot, season with salt and pepper and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
- Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the milk, cover the pot and bring to a simmer.
- Run your fingers through the crab meat to check for shell bits, then combine with the thyme and seafood seasoning.
- Uncover the pot, stir in the crab meat and simmer for 6 to 7 minutes, until the potatoes are just fork-tender and the soup has thickened.
- Finish the chowder with the Sherry and serve with the crispy bacon, chives, oyster crackers and hot sauce.