Today, we're making Cheddar Chowder!
Today's recipe is one of those that you can almost always whip up with zero notice. It uses kitchen staple ingredients, it comes together in less than 20 minutes (and most of that cooking time is just waiting for things to boil), and it can be easily be halved, doubled, or tripled to feed as many mouths as you need. And, the end result is a creamy, cheesy, hearty soup that is equivalent to a warm hug on a cold day.
First, let me tell you a funny story about this soup. I work with one of my childhood friends, and one of our daily routines is to discuss what we're eating for all meals throughout the day. So one day, my friend told me she was making this recipe of her mom's, and I was totally intrigued because I'd never heard of cheddar chowder before. So, she tells me about how she makes it. I'm sitting on the other side of our IM conversation in disbelief that the process she just described to me results in anything that could be called a soup. She sends me a pic of her mom's recipe, and I whip up a slightly altered version that night for dinner using what I had on hand. And it was freaking delicious!
So, I ask permission to share her mom's recipe on the blog. My friend gives me the greenlight. I officially rewrite the recipe using my own substitutions and techniques, all the while feeling a little guilty for altering this longtime family recipe. I share the pics and she shows them to her mom. And her mom drops the bomb that it's not her secret family recipe at all! She grabbed it from a newspaper YEARS ago, typed it up, and put it in her recipe book. In her defense, she said she never claimed that she wrote the recipe!
We all had a good chuckle, and my guilt disappeared because I was no longer responsible for changing a precious family recipe (well at least not the family that I know...). But really, that's a testament to how simple yet versatile this recipe really is!
Here's the basic concept of this recipe. We're going to simmer some veggies in water in one pot. Then, we're going to build a basic cheese sauce in a second pot. Then, we're going to mix the two together. I truly thought there was no way this would work, but it totally does!
For our veggies, the we're going to use some help from the grocery store and use frozen potatoes o'brien and frozen broccoli. The original recipe called for dicing and prepping all fresh veggies, but using frozen is so much better for 2 reasons: 1. no prep work, and 2. they cook way faster. However, if you have some fresh veg that you need to use up, you absolutely can. Frozen veggies are not a requirement, just a time saver. Either way, we'll bring the veggies to a boil in some water along with some seasoning salt and pepper, and allow them to cook until the veg is just warmed through and al dente.
In our second pot, we're going to build a standard cheese sauce with some butter, flour, milk, and cheese. Now, here's the cool thing about this soup. Whatever milk you have on hand will work! The higher the fat content of your milk, the creamier the end result will be. But, I almost only keep 1% milk on hand, and though it's a little thinner, the texture is still perfectly creamy. Sometimes if I want to bump up the creamy factor of the 1% milk, I'll add in a generous splash of heavy cream, but that's totally optional and not at all necessary.
When it comes to the cheese, the cheddar is basically the dominant flavor of the soup. So, we want to make sure we pick a cheddar that has the max flavor. We definitely want a sharp cheddar (or even extra sharp if you're feeling really wild) for this soup. Mild or medium cheddar are not going to cut it here. It's also important that you're buying a block of cheese and shredding it yourself for this soup. The pre-bagged stuff coated in the anti-clumping agents are just not going to cut it for this one.
Once the cheese sauce has thickened and the veggies are boiling, we're going to mix those veggies, water and all, right into that cheese sauce. This is the part that I still don't believe works. But, it does! We'll stir the two liquids together, add in some diced ham for extra heartiness, and allow the soup to cook just long enough to heat the ham through. We're not even going to allow it to come back to another boil, because we don't want our soup to break.
This rich and comforting soup can be served either as an appetizer/side dish or as a main course. With all the veggies and ham we have loaded up on the inside, it's absolutely filling enough to stand on it's own as a main course.
This soup is just absolute perfection. It's fast. It's easy. It's cheap. It's comforting. It's hearty. And, it's freaking delicious. And because I choose to use a lighter milk for this soup, it doesn't feel nearly as heavy as some cream based soups tend to feel.
This may just be the perfect recipe!
Please don't forget to tag me on social media when you make this one. I know that this one is going to make a lot of tummies super happy!!
I hope you all enjoy. And, let's eat!
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups frozen potatoes o'brien
- 1 ½ cups frozen broccoli
- 1 ½ tsp seasoned salt
- ¼ + ¼ tsp pepper, divided
- 4 tbsp (½ stick) unsalted butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup cooked ham, diced
- To a medium-large pot, add water, potatoes o'brien, broccoli, seasoned salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to low, and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until fully incorporated, and cook for 1 min. Whisk in milk, salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and garlic powder until smooth. Bring to a simmer, whisking frequently, and simmer for 1-2 minutes until the milk sauce has thickened.
- Add cheese to the milk sauce. Stir until the cheese is fully melted. Then, stir in the veggie/water mix and diced ham. Stir until fully incorporated and combined. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the ham is heated through, but do not simmer the soup. Remove from heat, and enjoy!
- *The higher the fat content of your milk, the creamier your soup will be. I usually have 1% milk on hand, and I'm totally ok with the thinner texture of the soup. But if you like a thicker soup, use 2% or whole milk. Or, add a splash of heavy cream to your 1% milk.
- *You want to use freshly shredded cheese for this soup, because it melts a thousand times better. It's important to use sharp cheddar for this recipe, because the sharpness of the cheese does add maximum flavor to this soup.
- *Using frozen potatoes and broccoli is a super quick and easy shortcut. But, if you have fresh veggies on hand that you need to use, you can absolutely use those instead. You'll just need to boil them in the water a little longer until they're tender (closer to 10 minutes). You can also swap out your veggies too! The original version of this recipe called for potatoes, celery, carrots, and cauliflower. So, this soup can help you clean out your crisper if you need it to.