Dinner With My Family #36: Wisconsin Farmhouse Chowder

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Each week, I’ll present a low-cost meal (or a meal that demonstrates a lot of options for cutting costs) that my family eats for dinner and enjoys. Many of the recipes will be vegan or vegetarian, with options to add other ingredients for non-vegetarians.

As we slip deeper and deeper into fall, our family is starting to eat more cold weather food – thicker soups and chowders and so on. Hand in hand with this is our ongoing effort to slowly clear out the recesses of our pantry and our freezer by using items that have been in there for a while and largely forgotten.

The result of this is our own homebrewed “Wisconsin farmhouse chowder,” which takes several different ideas from recipes we’ve heard and things we’ve tried in the northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin area. It’s simple to make and I hope you enjoy it.

What You Need
The ingredient list is pretty straightforward. You’ll need:
- 3 1/2 cups of milk, separated into 1 1/2 cups and 2 cups
- 2 medium potatoes, cubed
- 3 or 4 shiitake mushrooms, chopped (morels would also work if you have a source for getting them)
- A bag of flash-frozen mixed vegetables -or- one cup each of corn kernels, diced carrots, and chopped broccoli
- Dashes of a few spices, including thyme, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt
- Half of a cup of peas (frozen or fresh, whatever works best for you)
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Some ingredients

The Night Before (or Early That Day)
If you’re using fresh vegetables, it’s always worthwhile to make them the night before, as well as the potatoes. You’ll also want to chop the mushrooms. You might also want to make the mushroom cream as well…

Making the mushroom cream is simple. Simply take two cups of milk in a saucepan, toss in the dried mushrooms, and let it simmer for half an hour. Add a dash of pepper and a dash of salt, then add two tablespoons of flour and stir it until the mushroom cream thickens a bit. You can add more flour if you’d like, but don’t thicken it until it’s solid.

Preparing the Meal
Once you have the mushroom cream, described above, add the remaining milk to it, stir thoroughly, then raise the heat to a low boil (medium to medium-high heat should do it).

Cooking soup

Add all of the rest of the ingredients at this point except for the peas, stir thoroughly, then allow it to simmer for fifteen minutes, stirring regularly.

Finished soup

Add the peas at the fifteen minute mark, stir thoroughly, and allow to simmer for about three more minutes. Pull the soup off, allow it to stand for five minutes or so, then serve.

Finished soup without cheese

We served the soup alongside the wraps from last week. Many different types of wraps or sandwiches could accompany this soup.

Finished soup with cheese

Another option is to simply toss a small handful of shredded cheddar on top of the soup, as shown here.

Optional Ingredients
One simple step would be to replace the homemade mushroom cream with canned cream of mushroom soup, though there may be a flavor degradation here. Since switching to making my own by boiling mushrooms in milk, I’ve never really wanted to use the canned kind. You can also somewhat vary the vegetables according to what’s available to you.

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9 thoughts on “Dinner With My Family #36: Wisconsin Farmhouse Chowder

  1. I’ve lived in SW Wisconsin my entire life, and can’t say this is something that’s ever graced my table. Not enough CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. One thing that could transform this dish would be the addition of “manny butter.” Rather than adding raw flour, you take one part softened butter, an equal part flour, and knead them together thoroughly. Add THAT to make your mushroom cream, be sure to cook it long enough for the raw-flour taste to cook off (very important), and you’ve really got something.

    I learned about Manny Butter from a French chef (really French, and really a chef). One of his first cooking jobs in the states was a hotel kitchen, where the cooks were dese-dem-and-dose kind of guys. He was making a white sauce and asked if they had any beurre manois on hand, as all French kitchens did, and the cooks just looked at him funny. He started to describe it, and one of the cooks said, “Oh, you mean manny butter! Sure, it’s over there in the fridge.”

    It’s actually a handy way to store a thickener for soups and sauces–make tablespoon-sized balls of manny butter and freeze them (making sure they’re fully thawed before dropping in the liquid–and making sure the raw-flour taste is fully cooked off before serving (you can smell the raw flour as it cooks off).

    Thanks for the recipe, Trent. Great for chilly days coming up.

  3. This sounds great and it is also a meal where I can have all the ingredients on hand for a quick meal. Taste great and quick, great combination.

  4. We live in Nebraska but have made variations of this soup using canned cream soups as a base. Most of those recipes also call for chopped onions and celery, and cooking the potatoes, onions, and celery in water with added bouillon cubes or chicken broth. The frozen vegetables are added after the potatoes are just tender, and the canned soup and milk stirred in after the vegetables are cooked. Sometimes the cheese is stirred into the pot to melt instead of topping individual bowls. It isn’t gourmet but it is warming, nutritious, economical, flexible, and GOOD!

  5. #3 – Thanks for the manny butter/beurre manois tip. It would add another step, but I’d probably heat & stir the butter/oil and flour mixture in a small pan beforehand, instead of adding directly to the soup. That’s the way my family’s cream sauce recipe does it. Or use cornstarch; you can even use leftover mashed potatoes as a thickener.

  6. Can’t wait to try this. Sounds and looks delish. Only thing i had to purchase was the shitake mushrooms.

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