Native Cooking

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We are so sensory when it comes to seasons and the foods therein. For example, berries in May and June; buffalo burgers in summer and other pow wow foods; then, of course, corn and tomatoes in August. Squashes come, bringing pumpkins, turkey, apples and other fall treats, followed by hot cocoa in December, maple sugar in February and so on.

One staple year-round goodness is soup. Good ole soups, stews and chowders are welcome any old time of year. Yes, they are! But the fact that there’s something special about having them when the first chill hits your bones can’t be denied. This came home to me a couple of weeks ago when I made an onion soup on a chilly day – the kind with cheese and bread on top that was broiled. The rich beefy broth underneath made the caramelized sweet onions sing with flavor. We wished the two large bowls were quarts!

Corn chowder with a kick is next on my agenda, then a monster buffalo chili to take to an event. I am thinking about a thick, rich fish or clam chowder for the holidays. Every time I make a chowder, I try new and more exotic seasonings. You can’t do much wrong with soup or chowder that can’t be fixed readily.

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<b>Type A Corn Chowder</b>

3 slices bacon

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

4 potatoes, washed (not peeled), cut up

1 quart chicken broth

1/2 tablespoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 tablespoon flour

1 16-oz. can creamed corn

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the bacon very slowly in an iron pan. Remove, drain and set aside. Saute the onion and celery in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat until tender and golden. Drain and set aside with the bacon. In a large soup pot, cook the potatoes in the broth until done, about 20 – 30 minutes. Add hot sauce, oregano, whisk in flour, corn, cream, salt, pepper, crumbled bacon, onion and celery. Simmer (do not let it boil) for about 20 minutes to let flavors mingle.

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<b>Type B Corn Chowder</b>

Now, that was a Type A corn chowder because it has rich ingredients that are not healthy, just terribly delicious. You can “tone it down” with water instead of broth, low-fat bacon bits, milk instead of cream, etc.

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<b>Wild Rice Chowder</b>

2 cups cooked wild rice

3 potatoes, washed and cubed

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 quart chicken broth

1 cup shredded Cheddar or Swiss cheese

3 slices cooked bacon cooked and crumbled

1/2 cup light cream or milk

Cook the potatoes in the broth until tender, 20 – 30 minutes. Add the onion cheese, bacon and cream (or milk). Simmer, stirring frequently, until cheese melts and soup is hot, not boiling. Season with salt and pepper if needed and a little parsley (optional) to garnish.

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<b>Butternut and Fish Chowder</b>

1 large or 2 small butternut squashes (about 4 cups cubed)

1 pound of cod, bass or other large, white, flaky fish fillet

2 tablespoons light vegetable oil

1 large onion, cut in half and sliced thin

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons curry powder

2 cups chicken broth or fish stock

1 small (8-ounce) can of petite diced tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

Use a large heavy pan and heat the vegetable oil. Saute the onion and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook another minute. Put in the squash, chicken broth or fish stock, tomatoes (not drained) and simmer over medium heat until squash is tender, about 20 – 30 minutes. Take this time to season the fish with salt and pepper and cut it up into 1-inch pieces. When the squash is tender, add the fish gently. Cover and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes to cook the fish through. Use a measuring cup or large spoon to ladle chowder into bowls.

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<b>Dumplings for Stews or Chowders</b>

1 cup cornmeal, yellow or white

1 cup flour

1 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Pour the boiling water over the cornmeal and let it cool down. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper until it forms a thick dough. Use a tablespoon and drop into a simmering soup, stew or chowder. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

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<b>Notes and Tips</b>

* Quick breads go against their name because they taste better and hold together better if stored in the fridge overnight.

* Corn and pumpkin make a nice soup. You can use butternut instead of pumpkin.

* Put tomatoes in a soup or stew with meat. The acid in tomatoes acts like a tenderizer.

* Out of your gourd? A dry stairwell to an attic is a great place to put gourds for a year or so to dry and hollow out. Wipe off any mold; it adds character to them.

<i>I want to thank all of you who have sent in suggestions and ideas to NativeCooking@aol.com. I am always learning things. Please let me know what YOU want to see for recipes in this column.

Dale Carson is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking” (temporarily out of print), “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.”

For ordering information write to Dale Carson, P.O. Box 13, Madison, CT 06443 or e-mail NativeCooking@aol.com.</i>