Sunday, February 27, 2011

Comforts of Home: Creamy Potato Chowder

Sometimes a comforting dish can bring you back to a time where things were a little less complicated.

If you were to go back to my last post and look at the date, you would notice that it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Since last June there have been many new and exciting things happening in my life, and also some things that have been difficult to swallow. (I know this is a food blog, but seriously…No pun intended.)

Last October after a long battle with numerous health issues, my father passed away from a leaking aneurysm in his leg. He had been in and out of the hospital the past few years and his health had declined significantly. Fortunately, I was able to be there for both him and my mom the last few weeks of his life, and was also there when he passed. Loosing someone you love is never easy, and there was a definite void the following months as we celebrated the holidays.

Mom and Dad, Christmas 2008

Josh and I planned to spend Christmas Eve with my mother, and I wanted nothing more than to make it as comforting as possible, serving food that would make us all feel like dad was there with us.
It had always been a tradition for us to have my mom’s potato soup on Christmas Eve. One of my favorites, it was filled with carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, ham (that I would usually pick out, but the smoky flavor it added was always a nice touch) all in a creamy base and garnished with freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley and topped with buttery homemade croutons. I hadn’t had her potato soup in years, and I was missing it terribly. There was really no way around it. I wanted that. Period.

But how could I make it without the cream, butter, ham and croutons?

I thought about the cashew cream I had made for previous recipes, and then of the liquid smoke I added to the chowder that would impart the flavor of the smoky ham…So, I called up my mom and asked her how she made her potato soup. We collaborated on the recipe and that is where my version was born.

The soup turned out better than I could have ever imagined. The cashew cream was an excellent (and even better) substitution for the dairy cream, the liquid smoke gave the perfect smoky flavor and the chanterelle mushrooms were a nice replacement for ham without adding too much mushroom flavor, or coloring the soup the typical “mushroom gray”. We ended up not using any croutons and honestly, I didn’t miss them. We had such a lovely Christmas Eve dinner serving something that not only warmed or bodies, but also our souls.

I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we did and will for years to come.

Eat healthy, stay happy,


Creamy Potato Chowder

1quart vegetable stock
2 Tbsp Earth Balance Vegan Margarine or Olive Oil
6 yukon gold potatoes, skin left on and cut into bite-sized cubes
3 medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 leek, sliced thin (white part and half of the green)
½ large onion, chopped
1 carton oyster mushrooms
1 cup cashew cream (see recipe below)
½ tsp liquid smoke
1small handful Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped

Saute the onion, celery, carrots and leek for four minutes on medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté a few minutes more until the onions and celery are translucent and the mushrooms are soft.

Add the veggie stock and potatoes, season with a bit of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are pierced easily with a fork.

Add the cashew cream, liquid smoke and flat leaf parsley. Season with pepper, (I also put in just a dash of cayenne) and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Garnish with parsley and serve. If you’re serving this to gluten-eating folks, you can serve with either sliced French bread, or croutons. Enjoy!

Cashew Cream
1cup raw cashews
1 cup water
1 Tbps nutritional yeast
1tsp sea salt
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Add the cashews and water to a blender. Let soak for 20-30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.