Friday, August 10, 2007

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

One day I want to pick corn straight from the field and eat it raw off the cob. Corn starts to lose its sweetness as soon as it's picked so it's never going to taste better than that pure, unadulterated moment. But until that day, the next best thing is to cook it right away after buying it from the store or farmers market. Besides eating it off the cob, sauteing in butter, and freezing leftover kernels, I saved a few ears to make shrimp and corn chowder. I chose a cool, cloudy day to make this so I could fully appreciate the succulent shrimp, crunchy corn, and tender potatoes swimming in the warm creamy soup.

- Broccoli stems are really delicious so don't throw them away. You can use them in soups, stir fries, or Chinese lian ban (cold salad). Peel away the tough, fibrous outer layer and you're left with a mild tasting "heart" that you can slice or cube. This ingredient is optional because many times only the broccoli crowns are sold. If you only have broccoli crowns, go ahead and add more than a handful and add them a little later because cook faster.
- Instead of broccoli, you can add some diced celery, carrots, or red bell pepper. (I only used the broccoli stems and florets when I made this).

Shrimp and Corn Chowder
6 ears of corn, cut off the cob
4 oz. bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
3 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp of smoked paprika
1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper
4 C chicken stock
2 C milk (if it's too chunky for your tastes, add another cup of milk)
1 lb red potatoes (3), scrubbed and cut into 1/2 in cubes
Roughly 1/2 lb of broccoli stems, peeled and diced into roughly 3/8 in cubes
Handful of broccoli florets, cut into bite sized pieces
1 bay leaf
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
2 sprigs of parsley
1 lb of medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 C heavy cream, room temp
2 Tbsp of minced parsley
Salt and ground black pepper

Using a knife, cut the corn off the cob into a large bowl. Using the back of your knife or the waffle surface of a meat mallet grate the cob to get all of the corn milk and any remaining kernels into the bowl.

Saute the chopped bacon in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat, until the pieces are crisp and all the fat has been rendered.

Spoon out the bacon pieces reserving the fat in the pan (if there is over 3 tablespoons you can spoon some out). Reduce the heat to medium to medium low and add the chopped onions (and diced carrots and celery if using). Sprinkle the onions with about half a teaspoon of salt and saute until the onions have softened while scraping up the browned bits, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Sprinkle in the flour, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper and stir constantly while cooking for about 1 minute. Slow whisk in the chicken stock and milk. Add the potatoes, broccoli stems, bay leaf, thyme, parsley sprig, bacon bits, corn kernels, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Bring up to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer the potatoes are almost tender, about 8 minutes (you can add the handful of broccoli crowns after 5 minutes).

Stir in the shrimp and heavy cream, making sure the shrimp get stirred into the hot soup. If the chowder is too chunky for your tastes, add another cup of milk as well. Cover and bring up to a simmer again and cook until the shrimp are just pink, about 2 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf and parsley sprig, stir in freshly minced parsley and salt to taste.

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