What do you do when you need to get dinner on the table and haven't had a minute to think about what it will be? I scour my freezer, refrigerator and pantry and throw together any ingredients that I think will blend well or that I want to get rid of. That is exactly how this chowder came to be.
I've made it many times with whatever package of frozen veggies happen to be in my freezer. I think it works best with a Southwestern blend with corn, chilies, black beans and bell peppers. If I have an extra can of any type of beans in my pantry, I drain and add them. This is also a good recipe to empty my refrigerator produce drawer. The soup benefits from the addition of almost any herbs or veggies. Fresh thyme, basil, oregano, sage and tarragon have all made appearances, as well as peas, green onion, kale and spinach. I often have a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my fridge or freezer, so it was a no-brainer to cut them up and throw them in. Ham, bacon, turkey and shrimp have all worked well, too. It is also very tasty made vegetarian with vegetable broth and no meat.
I need to add a word here about pickled jalapenos. I always have a jar in my fridge, because they are so much easier to use than fresh ones. That is because unlike fresh jalapenos, pickled ones all have the same amount of heat. When using fresh jalapenos, you never know how spicy or tame they will be. Plus, the pickled ones last for ages. I don't think any foreign body could survive in that spicy jar. Pickled jalapenos are usually sold sliced, and I suggest wearing rubber gloves when cutting them up.
If you keep the ingredients for this chowder on hand, you will always be just 30 minutes away from serving dinner---15 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking. If your family is small, you may be lucky enough to have leftovers for dinner tomorrow night.
EASY CORN & CHICKEN CHOWDER
This is a very quick soup to make and is perfect for a casual dinner with rolls or French bread. Look for frozen veggies that include at least some corn, black beans, chilies, and red peppers. I prefer pickled jalapenos to fresh ones whenever I am chopping them for a recipe. They are consistently spicy and have an intriguing peppery flavor.
1 bag (14 to 16 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables, Southwest Blend preferred
1 can (15 oz.) cream style corn
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1½ to 2 teaspoons pickled jalapenos, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1½ teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ cup chopped cilantro or Italian parsley
Put all the ingredients into a deep soup pot. Stir to dissolve cornstarch.
Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to moderately low and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
MAKE AHEAD: Soup or leftovers can be refrigerated overnight.
To serve, stir in cilantro or parsley and simmer 2 minutes or until hot.
Makes 6 servings.