Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder

8 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped or 1 tsp. onion powder
1 celery stalk,  chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper
4 cups shredded or grated cauliflower (1/2 large head)
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
3-4 dashes hot sauce (or more or less)
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 green onions, chopped (optional)

Whisk together flour and 1/4 cup of the chicken broth in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large pot saute bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel.  Remove all but 1 Tbsp. of drippings from the pot.  Add chopped onions (if using), celery and garlic to the pot then season with salt and pepper.  Saute until vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes.  Add cauliflower and onion powder if not using onions, to the pot then stir to combine.  Add water then place a lid on top and steam cauliflower until tender, stirring a couple times, about 5-7 minutes.  Add remaining chicken broth and milk then turn up heat and bring to a boil.  Slowly whisk in flour/chicken broth mixture while stirring, then turn down heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until chowder has thickened.  Turn off heat then stir in 2 cups cheddar cheese until smooth.  Stir in half the cooked bacon.  Taste and adjust salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Serve topped with remaining shredded cheese, cooked bacon and green onions, if desired.

Comments:  This is one dish that I did not change even one ingredient!  It is perfect as is.  Now I can think of some drastic changes that will change the flavor completely that I intend to try.  #1 use broccoli instead of cauliflower.  #2 use hashbrown potatoes instead of cauliflower.  This might even be a good one to add clams to if using the potatoes.  One other thing that I found useful was using a food processor to grate my cauliflower.  It makes it so much easier.  I also used precooked bacon, heating it in my pot to crisp up and to give me the drippings called for in the pot. 
Comments from Food Tester Carol:  Cauliflower has many friends and some of its best friends are in this soup!  This smooth soup is surprisingly light, and tastes creamy and  cheese-y.  Sprinkled on top are pieces of bacon and scallion.  What I loved about it is that the cauliflower flavor is not masked by its companions.  In fact, that edgy sweetness of cauliflower is very much alive in this soup.  You might think of this as a hearty soup for winter, but its lightness makes it a soup for any season!
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