Once the weather gets warm, it's hard to find soups around my home unless we're talking gazpacho. That said, there is a significant deviation from that trend that tends to coincide with hiking days. There's something about having spent a good chunk of the day hiking around my favorite state parks that lends itself to curling up with a hearty bowl of soup, or in this case chowder, and reveling in the joy of sitting still for a bit. Add some of the fantastic focaccia I talked about a few days ago and you're looking at a bowl of bliss:

Creamy and chock full of red potatoes, diced ham, sautéed onion, and crisp-tender corn, this chowder is perfect fuel after a long day of exercise. It's also a fantastic way to relax. And even though soups and chowders are famous for involving hours of simmering time on the stove, this one comes together in well under an hour. And if that doesn't sound like it will work for you, make it ahead of time and just rewarm it when it's time to eat.

Bread (did I mention focaccia?) is a perfect accompaniment, although crackers or even a simple salad would pair nicely with a bowl as well. Chilled cider or your favorite beer make it a special occasion and lightly sweetened chai makes it feel like a treat. It's up to you! Enjoy.

Ham & Tater Chowder

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 3-4 large red-skinned potatoes, washed well and cubed
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 c. half & half
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 2 T. cornstarch plus 1/3 c. water
  • 2 c. diced ham
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a stockpot over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic and onion to the bacon grease in the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the corn, thyme, and potatoes until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the milk, half & half, and sour cream; stir to combine. Bring the pot to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 12-15 minutes. Add the cornstarch and water mixture and stir constantly until the chowder thickens. Increase the temperature slightly if this doesn't happen within a couple of minutes. Stir in the ham, salt, and pepper, to taste. If the chowder is too thick, add more milk as needed until the desired consistency is reached. Serve, garnished with bacon.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 35 minutes