Potato Chowder

2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
4-5 medium potatoes, diced (about 3-4 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
1 cup cream or half & half*
2 tablespoons cornstarch**
black pepper to taste
1-2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

Scramble fry bacon until crisp. Drain off all but one tablespoon of fat. Add celery and onion and about a ¼ of a cup of water. Cover and cook until onion is soft and transparent. Add potatoes and salt and enough water to almost cover potatoes. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce temperature to low and simmer until vegetables are tender, but not mushy. Stir cornstarch into milk. Add milk and cream to potato mix. Bring soup back to a boil, stirring gently to prevent scorching, mushy potatoes and lumpy soup. Salt and pepper to taste. Swirl 1/2 the cheese into the chowder, sprinkle remaining cheese on top of individual serving bowls. Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with additional crisp fried bacon crumbles, sliced green onions, or parsley sprigs.

* Cream maybe replaced with all milk in the recipe to reduce fat grams per serving, but the addition of some cream (1 cup in this case) improves the flavor and quality of the chowder.

** If a thicker chowder is desired, use three to four tablespoons cornstarch.

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