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July 24, 2013

A fast, fresh take on creamy chicken corn chowder

Sometimes it seems that just as we get ourselves fully into summer mode, we need to start thinking back to school! Oh, no!

During summer, dinner could be as casual and carefree as a backyard picnic or barbecue. But the start of the school year means a return to at least a slightly more formal sit-down dinner most weeknights. To keep the shifting of gears from catching you by surprise, consider reaching for some “cheating ingredients” to help you get dinner on the table without a hitch.

This delicious chowder recipe makes liberal use of two of my favorite cheating ingredients: store-bought rotisserie chicken and salsa.

I’ve never met a rotisserie chicken I didn’t like. They are paragons of versatility. You can heat one up and pretend you roasted it, or shred it and add it to all kinds of recipes, from chilies and sandwiches to salads and soups. During the hectic fall dinner season, I almost always have a rotisserie chicken in the fridge. And when the meal is over, I hold on to all the bones and scraps, stockpiling them in the freezer for that rainy day when I have a little extra time to make a stock. Those bones make a killer stock.

Salsa is another ingredient I like to keep handy at all times. An all-purpose condiment that’s replaced ketchup in many households, there’s a salsa these days for every taste: fresh or jarred, mild, medium or hot. And almost all of them are mercifully low in sweeteners. Use the salsa of your choice to set the spiciness of this soup.

Fresh corn is not a cheating ingredient, especially not in August and September. On the contrary, it’s one of late summer’s great stars, built into this recipe not only because it’s absurdly good — try eating freshly picked corn raw right off the cob! — but also because the starch in the corn helps thicken the broth.

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