The start of the school year means a return to at least a slightly more formal sit-down dinner most weeknights. If this shifting of gears is catching you by surprise, consider reaching for some “cheating ingredients” to help you get dinner on the table without a hitch.
This delicious chowder recipe makes liberal use of two of my favorite cheating ingredients: store-bought rotisserie chicken and salsa.
I’ve never met a rotisserie chicken I didn’t like. They are paragons of versatility. You can heat one up and pretend you roasted it, or shred it and add it to all kinds of recipes, from chilies and sandwiches to salads and soups.
During the hectic fall dinner season, I almost always have a rotisserie chicken in the fridge. And when the meal is over, I hold on to all the bones and scraps, stockpiling them in the freezer for that rainy day when I have a little extra time to make a stock.
Salsa is another ingredient I like to keep handy at all times. An all-purpose condiment that’s replaced ketchup in many households, there’s a salsa these days for every taste: fresh or jarred, mild, medium or hot. And almost all of them are mercifully low in sweeteners. Use the salsa of your choice to set the spiciness of this soup.
Fresh corn is not a cheating ingredient, especially not in August and September. On the contrary, it’s one of late summer’s great stars, built into this recipe not only because it’s absurdly good but also because the starch in the corn helps to thicken the broth.
After you’ve cut all of the kernels off of the cob, you should scrape the cob itself with the dull side of a knife. The milky liquid that results is another soup thickener (as are the potatoes in the recipe).
Finally, at the end of the cooking process, I pureed some of the vegetables — the onions, as well as corn and the potatoes — to make the soup creamy without adding any cream.
I recommend garnishing this soup with homemade tortilla strips. They’re delicious, a snap to cook up, and both fresher and lower in fat than store-bought tortilla chips. Then again, if you’ve run out of time, use the store-bought baked chips.
The real beauty of this soup is that it’s a hearty and complete meal in a single bowl. You won’t need to serve anything else on a weeknight and it leaves you with very few dishes to clean up.