What's cooking at the Colorado Department of Agriculture?

The Colorado Department of Agriculture says it’s open to any chef willing to throw that giant white hat into the frying pan – as long as they’re cooking up recipes involving such Colorado grown products as onions, squash, apples or last month’s pumpkins. But apparently not everyone got the memo.

For the past fourteen months, chef Jason Morse of Aurora’s Valley Country Club has been the state’s go-to guy for the recipes it sends out every month. “We haven’t been approached,” says Jill Youll, the academic advisor at the Art Institute of Colorado’s culinary program. “And we have loads of chefs and chef students who would submit their recipes.”

So what’s cooking with Morse’s monopoly? “For consistency and scheduling purposes, I depend on one volunteer chef to provide the recipe for the monthly press release,” says Wendy White of the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “Anyone is welcome to submit recipes using Colorado products, and I am happy to include them on our website.”

That website would be www.coloradoagriculture.com, which is now accepting recipes (chefs are not compensated, by the way) for December’s featured item: lamb.

In the meantime, November’s star commodity is potatoes. And once again, Morse has provided the winning recipe – for Colorado Potato Bacon Chowder. It's reproduced below. -- Elena Brown

Colorado Potato Bacon Chowder

1/4 cup olive oil 10 oz. Applewood bacon, raw, diced 1/2 tbsp. fresh garlic, chopped 1 tbsp. fresh shallots, chopped 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced small 1/2 cup celery with leaves, diced small 3/4 cup carrot, peeled, diced small 1/2 tbsp. thyme, dried leaf 3 bay leaves, broken 1-1/2 cups Colorado russet potatoes, diced with skin on 1-1/2 cups Colorado Yukon gold potato, died with skin on 8 cups chicken stock or broth 4 cups heavy whipping cream cornstarch slurry (equal parts water and cornstarch) as needed 2 cups white cheddar cheese kosher salt to taste white ground peper to taste

Heat large stock pot and add the oil. Saute the bacon until half-cooked, add the garlic and shallots and cook until slightly browned. Add the carrots, celery and onions and saute until tender, then add thyme and bay leaves. Add the potatoes and saute for approximately 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, cook until potatoes are fork tender. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil, adjust seasoning with the sale and white pepper as needed. Puree half of this mixture using a hand-held stick blender; result should produce a very smooth soup with some chunks of potato. Tighten as needed with the slurry mixture and add the white cheddar cheese. Season as needed with salt and pepper; garnish with chopped parsley and croutons.

The agriculture department suggests you "enjoy this with a Colorado wine, such as a glass of Chardonnay from Two Rivers Winery, located in Grand Junction."

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