Corn & Seafood Chowder
THIS CHOWDER RECIPE HAS EVOLVED nicely over the years. During this period, I have used many types of smoked fish and seafood and finished it with differing dairy inputs (skim, whole, half & half, and heavy cream). These variations are still up for review and I’m open to trying new twists in creating my chowders. I do enjoy good chowder and have often remarked, “I should make these more often.” That is usually a good sign and it applies here.
Indulge me for just a bit. My corn chowders contain potatoes, carrots, celery and, of course, corn. I know it will create issues in many New England seaside towns where I've noticed they are provincial in what constitutes proper ingredients in their chowders. I’ll let them defend their positions. For now, these veggies are in my chowders, with no apology. My chowder also features plump pink shrimp that I cut into tiny bite-size morsels. I’ll also leave clams and oysters to the many regional cuisines that promote their chowders.
The great discovery this summer was a new approach I learned in making the tasty stock. The basic recommendation was retrieved from a 2012, Food and Wine, website article. I have adapted their recommendations and offer it as an approach to create an amazing flavor profile to this chowder base. The key to the delicious stock is using fresh corn on the cob (available year round now). No more frozen corn for this chef! It is truly to live for, and becomes highlighted here because of the unique flavor it adds to this chowder.
Here’s the approach.
Stock - In two quarts of boiling water place two chicken bouillon cubes (or equivalent homemade), a bay leaf, and a pound of shell-on raw shrimp, preferably wild caught. Gently boil for a few minutes and then scoop out the now pink shrimp. Place the shrimp under cold water and clean, taking off the shells and place the shrimp in the refrigerator. Return the shells to the developing stock. Now place three ears of sweet corn in the pot and boil for ten to fifteen minutes. Strip the cobs of the kernels with a knife and place the cobs back into the stock pot. Steep for twenty minutes, and strain the stock reserving only the liquid. Discard the shells and cobs. Your stock is now ready.
Ingredients & Directions
In a large soup pot place ½ a stick of unsalted butter + olive oil
Gently sauté the following ingredients:
2 chopped medium onions (White and Vidalia)
1 chopped jalapeño pepper
½ chopped red pepper
2 carrots chopped
2 celery ribs chopped
Sauté for five minutes, then add ½ tsp. fennel seeds and ½ tsp. celery seeds for two more minutes. Next deglaze with a few shots of sherry. Add 3 TBS all-purpose flour and stir to make a basic roux.
Add back the earlier stock, plus:
1 Lb. cubed red skin potatoes
1 TBS. Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp. thyme (stripped from fresh stems)
Simmer a half hour
Add the corn kernels back
Use an immersion blender. Lightly puree about half of the ingredients
Add 1 qt. whole milk, or half and half
Simmer for twenty minutes add the cold shrimp pieces at the very end, just a few minutes prior to serving. Garnish with snipped chives, chopped fresh parsley works as well.
The magazine recommends a Chardonnay as the perfect accompaniment to this chowder. My vote is an un-oaked Chardonnay. They have become so popular these last ten years and for good reason and serving this corn chowder as a dinner allows you to enjoy a whole bottle. The Chowder isn’t bad either.
Thanks to Howard Kaerwer
I hope I have accurately portrayed the amazing flavor that is achieved from both the cob and the corn kernels. I dedicate this recipe to Howard Kaerwer. He was my first corporate boss and his background was in plant genetics. He knew much about corn breeding (grass family) and how to express desirable traits in plants. I smile every time I think of him and his talent. I had the opportunity to be placed under the wings of this brilliant man for three years in the mid-1970s. Of course, it has taken me nearly forty years to appreciate that fact.
What has occurred in the sweet corn breeding is astounding; by further expressing a few recessive genes the breeders have been able delay the onset of starch formation allowing corn to maintain its sweetness for many days after harvest. We can now enjoy fresh tasting corn year round. Thanks Howard for the many lessons you taught me. Two of my favorites - I no longer blow my nose in a cloth napkin when out to dinner, nor do I drink milk along with my Manhattans!