I live in a pretty mild climate so it's a stretch to wax poetic about "chilly" autumn days being upon us, making it perfect soup (or chowder) weather. So I won't pretend, and instead say I made this because I wanted to.
One of my favorite soups is baked potato, preferably served in a crusty bread bowl just to make sure I get all of those carbs safely into my waistband. I made up this recipe because I wanted something with the thick, creamy consistency of baked potato soup but I wanted to use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. I had purchased three sweet potatoes and wanted to try out three different recipes for them. This is the first one.
The ultimate potato soup for me (perhaps oddly enough) is the potato cheese soup at Marie Callendar's Restaurant and Bakery. Love it. Love the creamy consistency and the cheesy flavor. But I don't really eat at Marie Callendar's anymore (they keep closing down) so I've been without potato cheese soup for awhile. Hence my attempt to make my own.
I didn't quite know what I was doing but I did a search of potato soups and potato cheese soups online and came up with the ingredients most of them had in common: potatoes (check), cheese (yup), milk, and sour cream. There were other variations so I just winged it and invented this one. For the most part, I thought it turned out rather well, even despite my having a low bar of "just don't poison yourself" when it comes to my cooking. (I'm a baker.) The chowder had the thick, creamy consistency I was going for, thanks to the sour cream and the melted cheese. I added the kernels from a fresh ear of white corn for some crunch and for protein, I threw in chunks of chicken sausage to the chowder itself and topped it with turkey bacon.
I know many bacon snobs don't consider turkey bacon "real bacon" but, not being a bacon aficionado, it worked for me since it has less fat than the real thing. The sweet potatoes were also good in the chowder but I think it would've been better if I had used a more spicy sausage. The one I used was a sweet sausage from Trader Joe's but since the sweet potatoes were already, well, sweet, as was the sweet corn, a spicy sausage would have provided for a better contrast.
This chowder is best consumed the day it's made for the optimal creamy consistency. I refrigerated the leftovers and ate them for the next few days after and it wasn't as good. The chowder was more lumpy to eat rather than creamy and the oil from the cheddar cheese separated a bit and had to be emulsified back in. Otherwise, I would consider this a success.
Cheesy sweet potato, sausage and corn chowder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium to large sweet potato, peeled and diced into even-sized chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 2-ounce sausage, cut into chunks and cooked
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, mild or sharp
Cooked kernels from 1 ear of corn
2 strips bacon, crisp, crumbled
2 mini boules, centers cut out (reserve tops)
1 green onion, green top chopped for garnish (optional)
1. Heat olive oil in a medium or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato chunks and stir fry until tender but not mushy, stirring with a wooden spoon to cook evenly. Salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add sausage and cook until heated through. Set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Gradually whisk in the milk and the chicken broth, whisking the mixture smooth. Add sour cream and whisk smooth. Add shredded cheddar cheese and whisk until melted smooth.
4. Add sweet potatoes, sausage and fresh corn kernels. Let simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened to desired consistency.
5. Heat mini boules at 350 degrees F until insides are very lightly browned. You can butter the tops and brown them in the oven if desired. Remove boules from oven and fill with chowder. Garnish with crumbled crisp bacon and green onion if desired.