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Chowder for landlubbers

Three versions made with exactly zero fish, clams, or lobsters.

Ham chowder with leeks and cabbage.

Photo by Jim Scherer / Stying by Catrine Kelty

Ham chowder with leeks and cabbage.

Especially in coastal New England, clam and fish anchor the chowders of record, but it’s easy to apply the notion of a creamy-hearty-chunky-brothy-warming soup to non-seafood ingredients, too. Since so many chowders begin with salt pork or bacon, using ham as a defining element — along with leeks and cabbage — seems as natural as it is delicious. Likewise, chowder is but one stop in the vast lexicon of chicken soups, even a South American variety with quinoa, corn, and potatoes.

HAM CHOWDER WITH LEEKS AND CABBAGE

Makes about 4 quarts

5 slices bacon

1½ pounds ham steak, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 large onion, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper

1½ quarts low-sodium chicken broth

1½ pounds Yukon Gold or red potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes

½ pound savoy cabbage, cut into ½-inch-wide slices

2 medium-large leeks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large soup pot set over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels, crumble, and set aside.

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Pour off and reserve half the bacon fat; return pot to stove and adjust heat to medium, add the ham, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the reserved fat to the pot, return it to medium heat, stir in the onion, celery, carrot, rosemary, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt, then cover and cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and potatoes, increase the heat to high, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 7 minutes. Add the cabbage and leeks, cover, and continue to simmer until potato begins to soften, about 8 minutes longer. Mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the chowder. Off heat, stir in the cream, ham, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, cover, and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

Gently reheat chowder over medium heat (do not boil). Remove the bay leaves, taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Stir in the parsley and serve garnished with the bacon.

TIP: When you put the cabbage and leeks in the ham chowder, it will look like you have too much for the broth, but the vegetables will cook down.

Jim Scherer

TIP: When you put the cabbage and leeks in the ham chowder, it will look like you have too much for the broth, but the vegetables will cook down.

CHICKEN CHOWDER

Makes about 3 ½ quarts

Certainly you can use packaged chicken broth, but homemade will really make the chowder memorable.

5 slices bacon

1 large onion, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

Salt and black pepper

1½ quarts low-sodium chicken broth

2 pounds Yukon Gold or red potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 cup heavy cream

1 small (about 3 pounds) cooked chicken, meat stripped from bones and shredded

1½ cups frozen peas

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large soup pot over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels, crumble, and set aside.

Pour off half the fat; return pot to stove and adjust heat to medium, stir in the onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, thyme, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt, then cover and cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and potatoes, increase the heat to high, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until potato begins to soften, about 15 minutes. Mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the chowder. Off heat, stir in the cream, chicken, peas, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper, cover, and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

Gently reheat chowder over medium heat (do not boil). Remove the bay leaves, taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Stir in the parsley and serve, garnished with the bacon.

ANDEAN-INSPIRED QUINOA CHOWDER

Makes about 3 quarts

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

Salt and black pepper

8 garlic cloves, minced

1½ teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1½ tablespoons tomato paste

1½ quarts low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable stock

2 pounds Yukon Gold or red potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 cup heavy cream

3 cups cooked quinoa

2½ cups corn kernels

6 scallions, thinly sliced

2 avocados, cubed, for garnish

In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Stir in the onions and 1 teaspoon salt, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth and potatoes, increase the heat to high, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the potato begins to soften, about 15 minutes. Mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the chowder. Off heat, stir in the cream, quinoa, corn, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper, cover, and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

Gently reheat chowder over medium heat (do not boil). Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper, if necessary. Stir in the scallions and serve garnished with avocado.

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