Every once in a while it is fun for me to rummage around in my refrigerator and pantry to see what I have on hand and what I could prepare without having to make a trip to the farm market or grocery. The search resulted in the following recipe, which uses some of the early summer ingredients to prepare an easily assembled, hearty, and satisfying sweet corn chowder.
I used shrimp in this dish, since I had them on hand, although I’ve made this chowder in the past using crabmeat. The base stock was prepared using both the stripped corncobs and the peeled shrimp shells, cooked separately, then strained and combined. The remainder of the dish was composed of ingredients I had on hand from my local farm market: sweet white corn, bulb onions, scallions, a fennel bulb, carrot, celery, mini Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped tomato with the juice, a bundle of fresh thyme from my garden, and salt and pepper.
Sweet Corn Chowder with Shrimp
6 ears of sweet white corn (although yellow could be substituted)
1½ pounds of medium shrimp, shells on
2 large bulb onions (although 1 large white or sweet onion could be substituted)
2 to 3 large scallions, trimmed
½ large fennel bulb
1 large carrot
3 to 4 stalks of celery
13 mini Yukon Gold potatoes
2 to 3 chopped medium ripe tomatoes or one 15-oz can of organic chunk tomatoes
Bundle of fresh thyme stems tied together like a bouquet garni
Salt and pepper
Shuck the 6 ears of corn, using a sharp knife slice the kernels off the ears and set aside. Place the trimmed cobs into a large stockpot with 6 cups of water and gently boil down until reduced by one-third. Discard the cobs and set the water aside in the stockpot.
While the corncobs are poaching, using another stockpot, boil 2 cups of water and drop the shrimp in to poach for 3 minutes. Strain the shrimp, keeping the water, and set them aside to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and devein as needed, including removing the tails, and set the shrimp aside.
Including the water used to poach the shrimp, add a total of 6 more cups to the reserved corncob water along with the shrimp shells, and gently boil down until again reduced by one-third. Remove the shells and once cool enough to handle, strain all the poaching water into one stockpot that should yield approximately 8 cups total and will be used as the base stock for the chowder. Set aside.
Mince the onions, scallions, fennel, carrot, and celery, to confetti size and set aside. Cut the potatoes into quarters, rough chop the tomatoes, and tie the fresh thyme bundle. Set aside.
Trim the shrimp in half, then, through the center halve the wider head end while leaving the tail end whole. Set aside.
Take approximately 1½ cups of the corn kernels, spread them over a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan, and place under the broiler to lightly toast and heighten their flavor, which will add a light smokiness to the chowder. Work quickly, keeping an eye on the kernels to prevent them from burning or becoming popcorn!
Set them aside to cool as you are now ready to assemble the chowder.
In a large stockpot melt 3 tablespoons of butter in 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. When the butter begins to sizzle, add the prepared onions, scallions, fennel, carrots, and celery, stirring to mix together and thoroughly coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring frequently until the vegetables begin to soften and lightly color.
Add the quartered potatoes, stirring to coat and incorporate into the sautéed vegetables. Continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the potatoes are just fork tender but still slightly firm.
Add the stock, tomatoes, thyme bundle, corn both raw and toasted, additional salt and pepper to taste, and raise the heat to a gentle boil. If the chowder looks to be too dense add more water, 2 cups at a time, until you arrive at the correct consistency–not too thick like porridge but not too thin.
Lower the heat to a simmer and continue to stir cook and stir until the potatoes can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Now add the shrimp, turning them over to disperse throughout the chowder. Check and adjust the seasoning and add more water if necessary. Cook another 5 to 6 minutes until the shrimps are cooked through, remove the pot from the heat and cover. The chowder can be served right from the stockpot, however like most soups and stews, they are better on the second day as the flavors have had a chance to develop and improve overnight. If serving the next day, gently reheat, mixing from the bottom of the pot since most of the ingredients have settled to the bottom while resting overnight. Garnish a bowl with finely minced fennel fronds or parsley and accompany with toasted crusty bread or biscuits.
A nice way to make use of the summer’s sweet corn and other garden vegetables you might have hiding in the back of your refrigerator. Enjoy!
Be well. Eat Well.
Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, rather than endure.
Note: A correction—in the Dessert segment of the last post, specifically the Crostada recipe, I failed to include a baking time. Use 40 to 45 minutes, checking at that time to make certain the crust is not too brown, and the fruit filling is gently bubbling.