In my line of work, there are endless getting to know you games. We cover all manner of things: nicknames, pets, siblings, hometowns, family traditions, and any number of favorites. Favorite movie, class, spot in NYC, childhood tv show, book, food. I love learning all of these things about my students, but I especially love hearing them talk about food (no big surprise there). This semester, a student had one of the best answers I’ve heard in a while to the favorite food question: soup. When pressed for specifics the student stuck to their guns. Just soup. All kinds. I thought this was such a great work-around for what has often struck me as an impossible question. With just one word room was made for savory and sweet, hot and cold, and all sorts of tastes and textures. We paused our go round to talk about favorite soups for a while, and I offered up corn cowder as one of the best.
I love many a kind of creamy soup, but corn chowder is absolutely one of my faves. This particular corn chowder is in fact a corn chowder with shrimp, and was probably turned up when I was hunting for shrimp and grits recipes (none of which I have actually made yet, in case you were curious). It sat neglected in a pinterest board for months, finally leaping back out at me recently when I was looking for something new and different to try with shrimp that would stretch easily to leftovers. Since it also included one of my favorite spices–smoked paprika–and called for the use of one of my favorite kitchen toys–the immersion blender–it seemed like a perfect solution to my ongoing fight against the weeknight dinner rut.
This is a really simple and quick recipe, and it makes great use of layering flavors in one pot to build a dish that tastes like it could have taken much longer to create. You start with bacon–always a good start–removed to make room for shrimp. When the shrimp are done you switch them out for onion and red pepper, followed by a nice combination of garlic and spice, and, of course, corn. Broth and cream are added, and about half of the mixture gets whirred into smoothness with an immersion blender, leaving plenty of bites that still have a little corn crunch. The shrimp and bacon are tossed back in, and each bowl is topped with a pop of green. Dinner is served in just about thirty minutes.
Laura and I happened to be home together this week, and when I told her about this recipe we agreed that even though it’s getting gorgeously late spring / early summer out there, we’re both still (always) in the mood for hot food. This chowder feels like an especially great season spanner to me. It works beautifully with frozen corn for a warming dead of winter dish, but would probably be even better with fresh veggies smack in the middle of summer. Whatever the season, I think the soup loving student who inspired me would consider this worthy of inclusion in the favorites category.
5 pieces bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped in half
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 tbs smoked paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp white pepper*
2 10 oz packages frozen corn, defrosted
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup half & half
Chives (or basil, or green onions), for garnish
In a large sauce pan or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate, and drain all but about 1 tbs of fat from the pan.
Raise heat to medium-high and add shrimp. Cook til lovely and pink, about 2 minutes per side. Remove shrimp from the pan.
Add onion and red pepper to the pan (if you need to add a little additional oil, do) and sauté until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, white pepper, a pinch of salt and a few twists of ground pepper, and cook for about a minute more. Add corn and toss to combine.
Add the stock and half & half, and stir to combine. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
If you have an immersion blender, pulse it a few times in the pan until about half of the soup becomes creamy. If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle about a cup and a half of the soup into a blender and pulse until creamy. Pour back into the pot and stir to combine.
Add bacon and shrimp back to the pan. Serve with chopped chives.
* White pepper is an ingredient du jour in my house, but I think you could safely skip it.