Potato Corn Chowder with Kielbasa

“Ka-BA-see”, as it is pronounced in my family, is always on the table at Easter and Christmas Eve dinner.  My grandfather is Polish, so I grew up with the good stuff from the European specialty store.  The huge, garlicky smoked rings were always accompanied by spicy brown mustard, horseradish, and sometimes sauerkraut.  Everyone was sent home with leftover slices, which could be sizzled up with eggs for breakfast the next morning or layered on rolls with honey mustard for lunch.  Not to mention endless dinner repurposing options.  

These days I don’t always get to the specialty store, so my family doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the standard grocery store rings.  I think turkey kielbasa is just as delicious and a little healthier, so I often cook with that.  Either way, it lasts for months in the freezer and I don’t need to devote brainpower to figuring out how far ahead I need to take it out to defrost because it can be cooked from frozen and turns out just fine.  Perfect for last-minute dinners.  

I make this chowder year round on any cool day.  I usually have the ingredients on hand, and it’s an easy and comforting meat-n-potatoes meal in one pot.  Serve it up with a bright salad or raw veggies and vinaigrette.  

Potato Corn Chowder with Kielbasa

1 tbsp olive oil

1 14 oz ring kielbasa, diced

½ onion, finely chopped 

1 stalk celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups chicken stock

1 pound potatoes (2 large or 4 small), peeled and cubed

1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

1 cup green beans (fresh or frozen)

¼ cup heavy cream

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven and add the kielbasa (if cooking from frozen, cook the whole ring for a few minutes to soften, then dice and return to pot).  When some of the fat is rendered and the kielbasa begins to brown, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a bowl.  You want a thin layer of fat on the bottom of the pot, so depending on what type of kielbasa you use, you may need to remove some fat or add a little olive oil.  Sauté onion, celery, and carrots until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, cook for another minute, and then pour in the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, add the potatoes, then lower heat, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender.  It will take about 20 minutes but don’t worry if they go a little over.  You can’t mess this up.  Once the potatoes are soft, you can use an immersion blender at this point to pureé if you want a creamier soup.  For a chunkier soup, leave as is.  Add the corn and green beans (cut in half if using fresh), heavy cream, and browned kielbasa and let simmer for a few more minutes.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4.  

Note: This recipe is easily stretched to feed a larger family.  Simply use more broth, more potatoes, and if you don’t have any cream you can add milk instead and use a traditional roux (flour and butter) or even cornstarch to thicken if needed.

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