I first saw this recipe over at “A Long Way from the Theta House,” and loved the idea. My first attempt was a disastrous success. We liked it, but somehow I missed the “don’t use the whole can of chipotles” memo. In fact, I doubled it and used two cans for 12-14 servings of soup. Gulp. (Literally- we drank so much milk!) The next time (see what good sports my family are? There was a next time!) I made it, I wanted it toned down. And more freezer-friendly, cheaper, healthier, more flavorful, with better texture, and more convenient ingredients.
Here’s my finished product:
a few tablespoons of olive oil
2 large onions (about 6 cups), chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 T cumin
2 t dried oregano
1/2 T dried thyme (crushed if you have it whole)
Lots of garlic cloves (I think I used around 15 large ones, but I’m not sure)
Salt and pepper to taste
1( 7 oz) can chipotles in adobo
4 cups cooked white beans (canned or home cooked)
1 gallon(ish) chicken broth, divided
6-10 red potatoes, washed and chopped
3 cans diced tomatoes with liquid
3 cups chopped carrots (or more if you like- I was running low)
1 rotisserie chicken’s worth of chicken (I like to use the carcass to make some of the broth for the soup)
Extra chicken, cooked or uncooked, enough to satisfy your family
cilantro, limes, sour cream for serving
Saute the onion in the oil over medium high heat for about ten minutes, until things are looking golden. Add the spices and garlic and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and put batches of the cooked aromatics (that’s the yummy stuff you just sauteed) in the blender with the chipotles (we are using the whole thing, because this is such a big batch) and enough broth to get everything well blended. Repeat until all the aromatics and chiles are blended. Return this mixture to your pan stockpot and add about 1 1/2 qt of broth and plenty of salt and pepper.
While your blender is still dirty, add the white beans and an equal amount of of broth to it (you may need to work in batches) and blend until very smooth. You’ll use this to turn you chowder creamy, but unlike cream, this is healthy, cheap, and re-heats well (and don’t worry- you can add sour cream at the table).
Heat up your broth and aromatics mixture until boiling, then add the potatoes and carrots. Reduce heat and simmer until tender (about 10 minutes- you don’t want to over-do when you’ll be freezing.) If you have raw chicken meat, cut it into small chunks, turn the heat off, and add them to the soup. They will cook through without getting tough.
We interrupt this recipe to bring you a soliloquy about freezing food. The quality of frozen food is largely dependent on how quickly it was frozen. There is an interesting scientific explanation, but for the sake of space, here’s an equation: slow freeze=nasty food.
All that to say, the quicker we can get this puppy cooled down, the better. You should have one warm pot of soup, and several cool ingredients left (broth, bean puree, cooked chicken meat, tomatoes, cilantro, sour cream, limes). The last three are just for the table, but the others are your allies in quick cooling. Prepare your freezer-safe containers (I usually eat one batch the same day and freeze two). Divide the rest of the meat, tomatoes, broth, and bean puree into about thirds (it’s not rocket science) and put one portion in each freezer container. So, for instance, I would add one can of tomatoes, a little more than two cups of bean puree, several cups of cooked chicken, and a few cups of broth to a freezer-safe container. Then ladle about one-third of your hot soup into each container. (I like to speed the cooling even more by adding a few ice-cubes- another reason I skimp on broth). Everything will get mixed and cooked nicely when you re-heat it. If you can spare the space in your fridge, leave these in there until they’re chilled, and then transfer them to the freezer.
For the batch you’re making for today’s dinner, add the broth, white bean puree, chicken and tomatoes to the pot with your remaining third of soup. Heat until bubbly. Serve with cilantro, limes, and sour cream. Each batch should serve 6-8.