For those of you who have been following along, this is part of my "Dinner and a Movie: White Christmas" series! I wanted to find a vegetarian main dish to go with the movie, and given that Christmastime is cold up here in New York, I thought soup would be something cozy and not too elaborate. In perusing some of my vintage cookbooks, I ran across this gem in the 1977 New York Times New England Heritage Cookbook by Jean Hewitt.
Clam chowder is, of course, quintessentially New England, which seemed appropriate given that our Fabulous Quartet were headed to Vermont for the winter holiday. And clam chowder is one of my husband's favorites, but I'm allergic to shellfish. This recipe for Parsnip Chowder is attributed to Vermont, which makes sense given that that great state does not border the ocean. And since parsnips are a delightful, if underutilized, vegetable, I thought I would give this chowder a go. Because our friend is vegetarian, I did end up making a few changes.
Vermont Parsnip Chowder (1977)
Here's the original recipe (pictured above):
1/3 cup diced salt pork
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups peeled, cubed parsnips
1 cup peeled, cubed potatoes
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups milk, scalded
3 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup rolled cracker crumbs
1. Sauté the salt pork in a large, heavy saucepan until the fat is rendered and the pork pieces are crisp. Remove the pieces and reserve.
2. Add the onions and sauté until golden.
3. Add the potatoes and parsnips and cook, stirring, three minutes. Add the broth, bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about twenty-five minutes.
4. Add the milk, butter, and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in the cracker crumbs and reserved pork pieces.
Yield: Eight servings.
Okay, so, I did not make many changes, but I did make a few substantial ones, which I think turned out quite nicely. Here are my changes:
1/4 cup olive oil (or half a stick of butter)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 onions, sliced
4 cups parsnips, peeled and cubed (about 3 large parsnips)
2 cups red potatoes, cubed (about 3 smallish ones, and I like the peel for texture)
3 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups whole milk
In a large pot over medium heat, bloom the paprika in the olive oil, then add the onions and sauté until tender. Add the parsnips and potatoes and stir to coat. Let cook until slightly browned in spots. Add the water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are fork-tender. Add the heavy cream, milk, garlic salt, and pepper, and simmer, cover off, until the chowder thickens. Taste and add more salt if necessary. The parsnips and onions make it quite sweet.
The chowder turned out beautifully - a thick, creamy texture with tender bits of parsnip and potatoes (the onions basically melted into the cream) and a lovely golden color. The cream really thickens the chowder up without the addition of crackers (although you could add saltines or oyster crackers if you want). We ate up the leftovers pretty quickly, and in some ways it was better the next day.
What do you think? Is parsnip chowder something you would try? Do you think it goes with White Christmas (1954)? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to follow the White Christmas tag or visit the original menu post for the rest of the White Christmas Dinner and a Movie menu.
Want to see more Dinner and a Movie posts? Make a request or drop your suggestions in the comments!
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.