Chicken Tortilla Chowder #CooktheBooksClub

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It’s time for the April/May edition of Cook the Books Club!  In this club, participants read the assigned book and cook up something delicious inspired by the book.  Since it’s so early in April, there’s still tons of time to grab the book and participate! 

This month’s book was chosen by Debra of Eliot’s Eats.  Ready for the title?  Okay, here it is: The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week) by Robin Mathers.  Yes, that whole paragraph is the title of the book.  And yes, the book is as pretentious as the title suggests.

You can read my entire review over on GoodReads, but here’s the overview: I felt like I was in a college lecture most of the time while she beat the subject of organic local milk (among other topics) to death.  I found myself skimming chapters, just to get through them.

That being said, if you are a person (especially in Michigan) who wants to start eating locally, this book would be an excellent resource.  Many of the recipes included that the conclusion of each chapter (essay?) sound delicious as well.

On to the recipe. 

Early on in the book the author goes to her local Farmer’s Market and comes across salt rise bread.  She describes salt rise bread as tender but notoriously finicky.  Since I consider myself a fairly accomplished bread baker, I decided to rise to the challenge and make salt rise bread…

Except for the whole part where I failed in step 1.  My sponge absolutely refused to rise/ferment.  Without being able to talk to a salt rise dough expert, I can’t begin to know where I went wrong!  I know I had the right temperature and ingredients.  The only thing I can possibly think of is that I was using commercial 2% milk (not local unpasteurized whole milk) and commercial cornmeal (not freshly stone ground).  Anyone a salt rise bread baker?  Any advice?

With the failure of the salt rise bread, (finicky, indeed.  Touché salt rise bread) it was back to the drawing board.  I was feeling rather uninspired by the rest of the recipes, so I decided to embrace the premise of the book and make use of what I had on hand.

I dug in the freezer and found all sorts of vegetables that I had purchased at my local Farmer’s Market in the fall and frozen for the winter.  Then, I raided the pantry and fridge and came up with a delicious soup (because it’s still snowing where I live, despite the fact that it’s April!)

This delicious soup is a sort of hybrid between Bacon Corn Chowder and Chicken Tortilla Soup.

It’s basically amazing.

It’s spicy and creamy and hits all the right notes on a cold, dreary spring day.

Chicken Tortilla Chowder

½ lb thick cut bacon, cut in ½ in pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 potatoes, diced
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce + 1 tbsp sauce, diced
4 ears corn, kernels removed, 2 cobs reserved
Salt & pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried parsley
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup lowfat milk (+ ¼ cup flour mixed in – flour optional)
4 oz lowfat cream cheese
Diced avocado, shredded cheddar, and additional bacon, for garnish

Place the diced bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Cook the bacon until crisp, then remove from the pot and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Pour off the drippings, reserving about 1 tablespoon of the drippings in the pot and turn heat to medium-low.  Add the onions, carrots, zucchini, celery, and garlic.  Cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add the potatoes, chipotle peppers and sauce, spices, chicken stock, corn cobs, and tomato sauce.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken and set aside to cool slightly (shred when cooled enough to handle).  Remove and discard corn cobs.

Turn heat to medium, bringing the soup to a simmer.  Stir in the milk, cream cheese, corn kernels, bacon, and shredded chicken.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the cream cheese is melted and the soup is slightly thickened.

Serve topped with avocado, shredded cheddar, and additional bacon pieces.

Serves 4-6


  1. I admire your courage: I considered for a second to try that bread then a voice inside me said No and I heeded it. I try to be good at keeping the freezer content under control but I also need raids now and then to make sure nothing gets forgotten in a corner. You put your ingredients to excellent use.

  2. Your recipe turned out amazing. I have no idea on the salt rise bread debacle. Sorry the book wasn't your favorite. I found her much less preachy than Kingsolver, but thanks for persevering! :) You did create a great recipe!!!


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