As the holiday season kicks off, we here at Metro Parent thought it was the perfect time to share some of our favorite family recipes with you. Here, managing editor Kim Kovelle shares the story behind her family’s recipe. Plus, snag the details for making this dinner for your family.
My mom, Nancy Kovelle, does a few things like a rock star. One is polka. Another is whip up a mean Polish-style holiday spread. There’s pieorgi, kielbasa and piles of rum balls. But the queen cuisine is her killer pork-and-ham corn chowder.
“It has the perfect blend of sweetness, smokiness and salt,” Nance says. “This is something I started before you kids were even born.” About 1978, she tells me. A nurse at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, she’d grab a bowl from Soup Kitchen at nearby Fairlane Town Center. She’d also religiously scan the Detroit Free Press’ food section. And one day, lo and behold: There was that corn chowder recipe, in full glory.
Without fail, it’s been a Kovelle Christmas tradition ever since, served in her Johnson Bros. Friendly Village china – “Even when we were all sicker than dogs that one year.”
Mom does offer this caution: “Chowders are a work of love. They are not something you do fast.” Her tips? Make a couple days early and refrigerate. Hold off on half-and-half till the day you dish it. Add and stir on warm for a couple hours.
“Don’t let the time factor scare you away, because the results are well worth it,” she says. “You will have everybody lickin’ their chops and lickin’ the bowl.”
- 3/4 lb. lean salt pork, minced or ground (find it packaged near the bacon; peel off rind, rinse thoroughly and cube first)
- 1/2 lb. butter
- 1 large onion, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 quarts (64 oz.) chicken stock
- 2 large redskin potatoes, unpeeled
- 2 cans (16 oz. each) whole kernel corn, undrained
- 3/4 lb. ham, diced (Dearborn brand suggested, order in 1/2-inch slices at the deli; can substitute with potatoes/veggies)
- 1 quart half-and-half
- Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 to 1 tsp. each)
- Prep ingredients (mom does this the day before). Use a food processor to grind up the celery and carrots, and then the pork.
- In a big heavy pot (about 8 quarts), cook pork – start on medium, then turn to low – until all fat is separated and bits are light brown and crispy; about 45-60 minutes.
- Add butter, onion, celery and carrot; cook over medium. Stir in flour; cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Meanwhile, in a different large pot (about 5 quarts), combine chicken stock, potatoes, corn (and liquid) plus ham. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender; about 10 minutes.
- Slowly, add potato-corn mix to the thick butter-flour roux in first pot, stirring constantly until well mixed. Cook over low heat 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Chowder will be very thick.
- Add half-and-half and salt and pepper. Heat thoroughly. Thin with more half-and-half, if desired. Yields about 1 gallon (16 cups). Serve with Polish rye or crusty Italian bread.
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