Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Week 4 - Chowder

My original plan when the Week 4 challenge was announced was clam chowder. Since I didn't want to use heavy cream and didn't really feel like making a Manhattan clam chowder, I figured I'd go with the Boston/Rhode Island variety which is my favorite anyway. Then, as the meal plan evolved as our shopping date got closer, I realized it would make a lot more sense to make a sweet potato-based chowder so I could buy a giant bag of sweet potatoes from Costco. So that's what I did instead, taking inspiration from a recipe for a vegan sweet potato chowder from The Kitchn.

The ingredients for our adapted version of the chowder were:

- olive oil ($0.15)
- 1 large onion, chopped ($0.50)
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped ($0.30)
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped ($0.05)
- 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped ($3)
- ground coriander, about 1 tbsp ($0.30)
- paprika, about 1 tbsp ($0.10)
- sage, a few tsp ($0.10)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 2 large spoonfuls of vegetable bouillon ($0.50)
- 7 cups of water ($0)

Since we ate the chowder on its own for dinner, it was relatively inexpensive, coming in at approximately $5.05. Not bad for a whole meal, plus another nice-sized bowl of soup on the side for lunch.

The steps for making the chowder were:

1. Prep - chop onions, celery, garlic. Peel and chop sweet potatoes. (The sweet potatoes are the part that always seems to take me forever.)

2. Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook until softened.

3. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so (until fragrant).

4. Add sweet potatoes, coriander, paprika, sage, salt, and pepper and mix everything together well.

5. Add 7 cups of water along with the vegetable bouillon. (The recipe called for less water, but the amount of water they said didn't cover all of the sweet potatoes, probably because I used an extra one and they were huge. 7 cups of water was what it took for ours to be covered.)

6. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Cook until sweet potatoes are soft. Adjust flavors to taste.

7. Smash sweet potatoes on the side of the pot to thicken up the soup. Let cook for another 5-10 minutes after that. (This does take a while and can be kind of tedious, but we were watching a boring episode of the Walking Dead, so it was fine. The recipe instead scoops out cups of soup and purees them in a blender, but (a) I like texture in soup, (b) I didn't want to waste the blender (and didn't have the space) just for that and we don't have an immersion blender, and (c) it seemed in my head like the result would be similar but it didn't quite get as smooth even after smashing them.)

The soup was pretty good. Would it have been different and maybe a little more like chowder if I pureed it? Probably, but I was fine with it the way it was. It was relatively thick and creamy, and it was starchy, so that was chowder enough for me for the challenge without creating extra messy dishes. As far as flavor, it was pretty good. It tasted really healthy (no surprise, since it was) and the simple seasonings were nice and complementary to the sweet potatoes. We don't generally buy a ton of sweet potatoes from Costco, but if we did another time, this would be a great way to use some up.

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