Cooking In College: Chow down on this hearty chowder

Chowder is brilliant. It can be enjoyed by lots of different people because there are so many different types. Cheeseburger Chowder is the way to go for those who want to experiment with hearty soups but have picky eaters to serve.

In a large skillet, brown three pounds of ground beef. The beef can be browned bits at a time and combined in the pot if a large enough skillet isn’t available. Be sure to to drain the excess fat and grease before pouring the cooked ground beef into the soup pot.

Next, pour the six cans of cream of mushroom soup into the pot (consider substituting two of the six cans with “cream of mushroom soup with garlic,” for added flavor). Then, use those cans to measure six cans of milk and pour it into the pot.

Turn the burner to medium heat and stir occasionally. The meat and milk take a while to warm up, so this is the perfect time to chop and saute the garlic and onions.

Slice the onions in any way you want. If you prefer smaller chunks, it’ll take a bit longer. Toss the chopped onions in a large skillet (preferably the one you browned the ground beef in), then do the same with the garlic.

Now’s the fun part. Open up a can of cola (I used RC), and pour some into the skillet. Do this periodically as you saute the onions and garlic until the entire can has been used. This further sweetens and flavors the onions. While the difference isn’t huge, once it’s in the chowder, it’s still a little something special that makes the overall flavor more appealing.

Once the onions are slightly transparent and browned, taste-test one. If it’s a little floppy, but has a little crunch in the center (cooked “el dente”), they’re done. Pour the onions and garlic into the pot and turn the burner to medium high.

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Stir the concoction periodically to keep the meat and onions from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Once the chowder is heated completely through, dump in the packet of cheese and mix thoroughly. The sharpness of the cheese dulls as it mixes with the rest of the chowder, so sharp cheddar is a good option, even if one normally doesn’t like it. Once the cheese is fully melted and completely mixed in, it’s done.

Ladle the chowder into bowls and top with more cheese for garnish. Also, grab the packet of croutons and pour a few on top as well. They add texture and stand in for the bun in a regular cheeseburger.

For added fanciness, garnish the soup with chopped lettuce and a little tomato. This will add a touch of color, and as ordinary as it seems, will really dress up the presentation.

Photo by Heather Hamilton

If you don’t have a lot of people to cook for, no problem. The recipe is really easy to reduce. But, if you make the recipe as directed here (24 servings), you’ll be paying roughly $1.25 per serving. The soup can be stored in gallon sized plastic bags to freeze leftovers for a few days. This way, if you know you’ll be getting home late one night and don’t want to cook, you can grab a bag to thaw in the refrigerator that morning. And the reheat value is excellent.