Midwest chowder was introduced to me when my husband and I were newlyweds and college students at CU Boulder back when E. Gordon Gee was the university’s president. Gordon and his wife, Elizabeth, happened to be parents of an 11-year-old girl named Rebekah in the Sunday School class I taught. The Gees had recently endured personal crises with Elizabeth’s health (cancer) and displeasure of their staff. Shortly after we met, I was offered an excellent full-time job managing the University President’s Residence, an opportunity I could not pass up.
Gordon Gee, known for his bow ties back when almost nobody wore them, and more significantly, his ability to fundraise like a champion, has been president at more universities than any other American. The Ohio State University, Vanderbilt University, Brown University and currently West Virginia University have been led by my former boss.
Employment at the University of Colorado was my initial introduction to spectacular catered events that included enchanting place settings, ambiance, panache and fancy meals unlike anything I had ever seen. In addition to the many parties and celebrations held at the president’s home, a full-time assistant cooked dinners for the family of three and I was often Nelda’s taste tester. That’s where I learned about this hearty comfort food referred to as Midwest Chowder, from the Gee’s housekeeper/cook, Nelda Johnson.
It has been many years since I made Nelda’s Midwest Chowder until today. I made a few changes since it had far too much cheese and salt for my liking this time around. It’s a thick, creamy, cheesy potato soup, excellent in cold weather. I hope you enjoy it!
- 4 cups peeled, diced potatoes (I used red)
- 1 cup peeled, diced carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
- 4 cups boiling water
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 cups boiling milk
- 12 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Combine hot water with potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, salt, pepper and bouillon in a large pan. Cook on medium high until vegetables are nearly cooked. DO NOT drain.
While the vegetables are cooking, make the cream sauce. Melt butter on low, then add flour and milk. Stir until smooth and use an immersion blender if needed to eliminate lumps. Stir in cheese until melted. Pour creamy mixture into the vegetable mixture, then stir together to heat a few more minutes, but do not boil. Serve while hot. Optional toppings may include crispy bacon, diced green onion or croutons, if desired.
Yield: 12 servings (2 ladles), 283 calories