A month ago, I received an email from Westminster Crackers, saying that they liked what we were doing over in the Chez Us kitchen. They wanted to share their product with us. I have always wondered where those little packets of salty crackers came from, and now I know. Salty little bites in a bag. Yum. The first thought that came to mind was the obvious, clam chowder but I wanted to do something different, so I worked on this recipe for Hearty Corn Chowder with Chipotle Whipped Cream.
A week later a box arrives with not only salty little bags of goodness but also their regular and circle crackers. I did not do my homework very well as I did not realize they made other crackers beside oyster crackers. Lenny basically ripped into the box of square crackers and devoured them before I even had a taste; must have been good! I, on the other hand, opened the box of circles, grabbed some cheese, and sat down to try out the Westminster Cracker. The first thing I noticed was that not one cracker was broken. They survived a trip from the East Coast and not one cracker broke. When I broke a cracker in half, it made a nice “snap” sound. The cracker was crispy. The flavor was not overly salty or over yeasty. The crackers went really well with cheese. As far as crackers go, I was impressed so far.
The next test was to try the oyster crackers. I did not want to just tear into a bag and nibble them. Nor did I want to serve them with the token bowl of clam chowder. I made a “cream” free corn chowder. The base of my chowder is simple, sweet white corn, potatoes, some carrot, and celery. Cooked until the flavors blend, when pureed, until slightly smooth and still chunky. No cream is added as the pureeing makes the soup creamy. I like texture, so I sauteed some white corn with pancetta and stirred it into the pureed soup. The final touch was a chipotle whipped cream, a sprinkle of cilantro, and Westminster Oyster Crackers. I was impressed. The crackers stayed crisp, never got soggy (even during a 15-minute photo shoot), and added the right amount of crunch and salty flavor to the chowder.
Besides the crispy bite, the snappy sound of the cracker breaking between my teeth, I like that the ingredients are all natural. As well the crackers are trans fat-free, low in sodium, low in fat, no cholesterol, no sugar and no preservatives; all selling points for me and exactly what I look for when label reading at the grocery store.
We think you would love these crackers, whether in a bowl of steamy chowder or even as a snack on their own. We have teamed up with the fine folks of Westminster Crackers and are hosting a giveaway. They are giving us a soup package (VAR $50) to give away to one lucky reader. The soup package not only will have samples of their crackers but also these fun soup-inspired items from Sur la Table:
- 1 Variety Sample Box of Westminster Crackers (including rounds and squares)
- 1 50-count sample Box Westminster Oyster Crackers
- Set of 4 soup crocks from Sur La Table
- Soup Socks from Sur La Table
- Ladle from Sur La Table
You have three ways to enter, and each way will get you one entry for this giveaway. You can do one of them, two or all three; it is up to you. This giveaway runs until midnight on the 20th of March 2011; the winner will be announced on the 21st of March 2011.
- Leave a comment telling us about your favorite chowder recipe.
- Tweet this giveaway; be sure to come back here and paste your tweet into the comment section.
- Become fans of Chez Us and Westminster Crackers over at Facebook, then come back here and leave a comment telling us you did it.
Corn Chowder with Chipotle Whipped Cream
1/2 yellow onion, cut into pieces
2 carrots, washed, cut into pieces
2 celery ribs, washed, cut into pieces
2 small russets, peeled, cut into pieces
24oz sweet white corn, fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups water, or stock
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 slices pancetta, cut into small pieces
8 oz of above-mentioned corn
a drizzle of olive oil
1-pint whipping cream
2 teaspoons canned chipotle pepper, cut into very small dice
cilantro, for garnish
In a large dutch oven, over medium heat, pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil; gently heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, over medium heat, cook until soft; about 7 minutes.
Add the potatoes, stir, and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the corn and the water or stock.
Over medium heat, bring to a slight boil; lower heat to a low simmer and let cook for 30 minutes.
While the soup is cooking prepare the toppings.
Using a mixer, whip the cream with the chipotle pepper until stiff peaks form; do over whip or you will have butter. Set the cream aside.
In a frying pan, over medium heat, add the drizzle of olive oil and the pancetta. Cook until lightly golden and slightly crispy; about 6 minutes. Add the white corn, stir, and heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until time to serve.
By now the soup is finished. Remove the soup from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Puree in batches in a food processor or blender.
Return to the dutch oven, gently reheat over low heat, until hot; about 5 minutes.
To serve, ladle soup into a bowl, top with a dollop of whipped chipotle cream, some of the pancetta/corn mixture, a sprinkle of cilantro and a bag of salty Westminster Oyster Crackers.