I love making soups! I think a soup is really the culinary equivalent of a hug, and over the years I have tried out dozens of soup recipes. This one is a winner–creamy, slightly smoky, filling but not heavy, and kid-friendly! There are other corn chowders that are heavier and have lots of cheddar cheese–and I love that too, but this is more of an “anytime” soup. Try this on a chilly evening or even for a casual dinner party, served with a nice salad and crusty bread.
This soup is like therapy. Both preparing it and eating it will make you feel better about what ails you. I decided to try this recipe after seeing Ina (we’re on a first-name basis now, me and Ina Garten) prepare this on her show, Barefoot Contessa, and she included it in her latest cookbook, Foolproof. I changed just a few things (for example, I use regular bacon instead of more expensive pancetta, and I chopped up fresh basil and tossed in a parmesan rind instead of using store-bought pesto), and the results spoke for themselves. My family finished the pot and requested I make it again! You will think I am making this up, but my 4-year-old ate his whole bowl and my almost 2-year-old (gasp–he is getting big too fast) got seconds! We paired it with my husband Mike’s homemade sourdough bread and some crisp Pinot Grigio. Magic.
P.S. Mike and I go to see Ina this week at her book signing, I can’t wait!
One of my favorite things to do as a kid was hang around the adult’s table and overhear conversation at family gatherings. Over a glass of wine and the remaining desserts, the adults would chat about everything from current events and politics to grocery shopping and cars. I learned a lot about their points of view just by sitting quietly!
Similarly, when I would get home from school and my dad would be getting up from his nap (his radio show went live at 5:30 am), we would sit at the kitchen table and share some soup, an English muffin, and always great conversation. My dad was hilarious and one of a kind, and I could sit at the table and talk to him forever! He loved soup, and this recipe is an adaptation of one he created and my mom and he made many times. It’s not really a traditional chowder because it’s brothy, not thickened, but it is hearty and filling, with potatoes, carrots, corn and chunks of fresh cod. You can also add shrimp or other seafood you love. Cook up a batch and share it with your loved ones, along with a nice glass of white wine, of course…
For my older son’s second birthday party, I wanted to do something heartwarming and cozy. It was the end of January and the Boston weather that year had been brutal. Piles of snow had been capped with a thick sheet of ice, leaving people trying to figure out how to chip ice blocks off of their roofs. I remember my mom saying that five stores in her town were out of ice-melt on one particularly depressing day. We were all in need of a comfy party. Plus, I needed to go simple–because I was pregnant (and sick!) with my second baby. The moral of the story is, black bean soup cured all! Well, maybe not. But people really seemed to like it. And I am (almost) ashamed of how easy it is to make.
My mom made me a big fan of chili growing up. I used to sneak into the kitchen while it was simmering and steal bites from the pot. Then she would say, “Oh babe! I didn’t even put the beans in it yet! Let me do that now.” Then, voila, time to eat! Now I make chili in all sorts of weather, generally once a week. I have made white chicken, beef, three bean and even zucchini chili, but this recipe is my favorite. Of course, adjust the seasoning to your preferred spice level. You can add cayenne pepper, ancho chili powder or other chili powders you love. This recipe makes a mild chili, which works for my family right now with the young-uns.