Southwest Thanksgiving Panini and Chowder

Ever wonder how you’d fare on Iron Chef America or Chopped? If you were given random ingredients to incorporate into a creative (and tasty) dish, could you pull it off? Well, I’m about to find out!

Clash of the Cooks

The Southwest Thanksgiving Panini and Chowder you see above is my entry in a fun Chopped-style competition with our local San Diego Whole Foods stores called “Clash of the Cooks”. Local bloggers were challenged to create a holiday inspired dish from these four mystery ingredients from the store:

  • Whale Tails Tortilla Chips
  • Whole Foods Organic 365 Chicken Broth
  • Smoked Gouda
  • Cranberry Sauce

Can you guess how I used each ingredient? I bet I’ll surprise you! Read on to find out how my southwestern-inspired dish came together, but first…let me tell you how you can help me win the competition!

It’s super-easy: just click on the Pinterest/Twitter/Facebook buttons at the top of this post (if you’re reading this on email or RSS, please click through to the blog) to Pin, Tweet or Like it. Remember to use the hashtag #WFMClash in your shares. That’s it – and thank you so much in advance for your support!

Whole Foods "Clash of the Cooks" ingredients

Friends on Facebook and Instagram had all sorts of creative ideas for what to make with these ingredients – everything from a layered turkey enchilada casserole to chilaquiles to a savory pie with a corn chip crust. A suggestion from Jenni Field at Pastry Chef Online particularly stood out to me:

“I’d make a turkey chili w/gouda stock and cran sauce and grind up the corn chips to use as a thickener.”

That last part about using ground tortilla chips as a thickener reminded me of the Sweet Corn Tortilla Soup I had at The Melt last spring. It was velvety, a bit spicy and practically bursting with corn flavor. That was it – I had to make a chowder like that, thickening it in part with the corn chips. The chips gave the chowder a wonderful toasty flavor, and sautéed poblanos brought just the right amount of heat.

And then, of course, I needed a killer sandwich too, right?

I used more ground tortilla chips to crust the outside of the panini, à la my friend Laura Werlin. Not only does this give the bread a great crunch, but the aroma of toasted corn as you bite into the sandwich is beyond incredible. Inside, I layered on some turkey breast, the smoked Gouda and a kicky cranberry relish (which I gave some southwestern flair by by mixing minced jalapeños and orange zest into the traditional Whole Foods cranberry sauce). You could easily make this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey and cranberry sauce too. Sweet, tart, salty, smoky, crunchy, nutty – this was a true feast for the taste buds.

Here are the recipes, below – and thanks again for your Pins, Tweets and Likes (#WFMClash)!


Southwest Thanksgiving Panini and Chowder

Recipe by Kathy Strahs,

Spicy Corn Tortilla Chowder recipe adapted from Chef Jack’s Corn Chowder recipe by Paula Deen

Prep time: 25 minutes | Cook time: 35 minutes | Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 4-6 servings


Spicy Corn Tortilla Chowder:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ground Whale Tail Tortilla Chips plus crumbled chips for garnish
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 3 cups Whole Foods Organic 365 Chicken Broth
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cranberry-Jalapeño Relish:

  • 1/2 cup Whole Foods Cranberry Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño, seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest


  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup crushed Whale Tails Tortilla Chips
  • 8 slices rustic white bread, sliced from an artisan loaf
  • 1/4 pound smoked Gouda, sliced
  • 1/2 pound turkey breast, sliced or carved


Spicy Corn Tortilla Chowder:

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, poblano and garlic, and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour and ground tortilla chips and stir to make a roux. Continue cooking and stirring until the roux is cooked and fragrant; remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
  2. Meanwhile, add the corn and chicken broth to another saucepan, bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle in a little of the broth and corn at a time into the saucepan with the roux, whisking briskly to prevent lumps. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. It should become very thick. Remove it from the heat.
  3. In a small saucepan, gently heat the half-and-half.
  4. In batches, transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree till smooth (better yet, if you have an immersion blender, use it to puree the mixture right in the saucepan).
  5. Return the corn mixture to the saucepan and stir in the warmed half-and-half. Season the chowder with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish individual servings with crumbled tortilla chips.

Cranberry-Jalapeno Relish:

  1. Mix the cranberry sauce, jalapeno and orange zest together in a small bowl. Set the aside to chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the panini.


  1. In a small bowl, mix the butter and tortilla chip crumbs until they’re well combined.
  2. For each sandwich: Spread a layer of tortilla chip butter onto two slices of bread. Flip one slice over and layer on cheese, turkey, a few tablespoons of cranberry sauce and more cheese. Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, buttered side up.
  3. Grill the panini, two at a time, until the cheese is melted, 4 to 5 minutes.



KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. Fabulous!!! I saw the email, but was actually not brave enough to enter. This is a meal I’d pay top $ for… I really think you need a restaurant!!! Well done!

    Posted 11.13.12 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Thanks so much, Kim – that’s so kind of you!! You so should have entered – you probably still can for next week! 🙂

      Posted 11.13.12 Reply
  2. looks and sounds wonderful Kathy!

    Posted 11.14.12 Reply
  3. Oh my word! This looks so tempting! I love the added crunch, and it’s hard to beat the savory-sweet duo of turkey and cranberries!

    Posted 11.14.12 Reply
  4. Good luck with the contest–I just tweeted! I could totally go for a bowl of that soup right now. 🙂

    Posted 11.14.12 Reply
  5. Mary wrote:

    Your recipe looks great, Kathy! I wasn’t sure who else was entering so it’s been fun to see what everyone’s been coming up with. I like the tortilla chips on the bread! Good luck 🙂

    Posted 11.14.12 Reply
  6. Amanda wrote:

    Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering!! Wish I had this plate in front of me for lunch!! 🙂

    Posted 11.14.12 Reply
  7. Ooo, that is one good looking sandwich!

    Posted 11.14.12 Reply
  8. Chassie wrote:

    looks delicious! Love the soup!

    Posted 11.14.12 Reply
  9. Michael Strahs wrote:

    I think you did a great job. Soup and sandwich is an unexpected and delicous take on your assignment. Well done!

    Posted 11.14.12 Reply
  10. Good luck! I’m off to pin it!

    Posted 11.14.12 Reply
  11. marla wrote:

    Love this recipe! Will be linking back to this in my upcoming post 🙂

    Posted 11.17.12 Reply
  12. Now that is a nice looking turkey and cranberry sandwich!

    Posted 11.17.12 Reply
  13. Christian Rene Friborg wrote:

    Panini and chowder. WOW. This is great! Must try.

    Posted 11.19.12 Reply
  14. Amazing! I’m not even looking forward to thanksgiving anymore – I’m looking forward to the leftovers now!

    Good luck with the competition! I’m sure you’ll win! 🙂

    Posted 11.20.12 Reply
  15. roz wrote:

    What a wonderful meal . . . you can come and cook for us anytime! I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving too!

    Posted 11.21.12 Reply
  16. Shannon B wrote:

    Wow—thank you for being so creative! I just made this entire meal, and I am singing its praises. The soup was easy, yet the depth the tortilla chip roux added was intense. Then the panini…..I don’t know if I have ever had a sandwich I enjoyed so much. The tortilla butter on the outside of the bread….genius.

    Posted 12.21.12 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Thank you so much, Shannon – I am so glad you liked it!!

      Posted 12.21.12 Reply