Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Winter Vegetable Chowder with Bechamel

Root Vegetable Chowder with Bechamel

Happy Tuesday from the snow drenched mountains of Steamboat Springs! I was ready for the snow this year. I bundled up in my cozy Gap sweater, sipping my fresh ginger lemon tea, tiny dog curled up in my lap, writing blog posts in the dimly lit room, gray outside, and all was right in the world. Mostly because only one kid was up and while I could hear Yo, Gabba Gabba and Little Bill, I tried to soldier on.

Root Vegetable Chowder with Bechamel

Speaking of my dog, have I told you that I bought him a sweater for the winter? It's a red fleece and snuggie-ish and he looks like a cult member. I keep expressing to him the importance of not drinking the Kool-Aid, but given that he gobbled up a nasty magnesium pill I dropped on the floor yesterday with cat like reflexes and apparent delight, I fear there's no hope of him resisting.

Root Vegetable Chowder with Bechamel

Root Vegetable Chowder with Bechamel

My dog eats anything that falls on the floor. Potato, onions, you name it. He probably thought that pill was a tasty little morsel before chewing and realizing damn, that sucked. Jeremy will allege it's because I feed him carrots and the occasional cashew from my hand, but I think he just eats random vegetables that drop on the floor so often that he has developed a taste for them and because of that, he now craves them and other root vegetables and gladly sits by my feet while I make dinner. So, you can imagine the blissful state my dog must have been in the night I made root vegetable chowder. Butternut squash, onions, fennel and carrots all trying to make their way into my sizzling olive oil from across the counter as I transferred them from my cutting board and dropped some along the way. I always drop stuff. Hog heaven for the little guy, I tell you.

Root Vegetable Chowder with Bechamel

The thing that first grabbed me about this recipe was that after you have made a root vegetable soup, instead of the usual splash of cream, you add a creamy bechamel sauce to the pot which thickens everything up and transforms it into a thick, hearty chowder.

Bechamel is a simple sauce made from flour, butter, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. I like it in my lasagnas, and am delighted to have found a new use for it.

Root Vegetable Chowder with Bechamel

Your soup will be thicker and more chowder like than the picture of mine. I tried to see if I could get away with making it healthier and only adding half the Bechamel sauce. The answer is NO. Not if you want it to be awesome. It was fine and all but I could tell that the extra sauce would give it the little nudge it needed to be a proper chowder. Well, that and oyster crackers.

If you don't like butternut squash, you could always sub sweet potato. If you hate sweet potatoes you could sub more white potatoes I guess, but I feel it's my civic duty to tell you to grow up already and put your big girl/big boy pants on and learn to like them because they're healthy and really good and my dog even thinks so.

Winter Vegetable Chowder with Bechamel
adapted from Rachael Ray

serves 4-6

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large bulb fennel, quartered and thinly sliced
1 pound butternut squash, chopped into 1/2" dice
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 leeks, halved and thinly sliced 
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large fresh bay leaf
2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)
3 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
Salt and Pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Oyster crackers, for serving

Heat the olive oil on a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, squash, carrots, parsnips, onion, leeks, garlic, a hearty pinch of salt, pepper, and the fresh and dried herbs. Cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, to soften, about 10 minutes. Add stock and simmer while you make the white sauce.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the milk and simmer to thicken. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Once thickened, combine the sauce with the soup and keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. Season the finished soup with salt again, and taste to see if you need more.  Top each bowl with oyster crackers.


  1. My wife might be the most beautiful thing that has graced this planet and her cooking might be the greatest thing a palate could experience, but good lord, does she drop things on the floor! Kale, carrots, onions, beans, grains, berries, rinds, skins, nuts, sugar, water, spices, shells, you name it and its been on the floor or is currently on the floor. It's a good thing we don't eat meat or there'd be blood stains and carnage strewn about our kitchen. :)
    Love you, Sweety!

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