THIS PARTICULAR CORN CHOWDER RECIPE has evolved nicely over the years. During this time 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 they are very provincial in what constitutes proper ingredients in their chowders. I’ll let them defend their position. For now, these veggies are in my chowders with no apology. My chowder also features plump pink shrimp that I cut into morsels. I’ll also leave clams and oysters out of my recipes.
The great discovery this summer was a new approach I learned in making this tasty stock. The basic recommendation was retrieved from a 2012 Food and Wine Magazine web article. I have adapted their recommendations and offer it as an approach to create an amazing flavor profile to this chowder base. The key is corn on the cob. 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), 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 placing the shrimp in the refrigerator. Return the shells to the developing stock. Now place 2 to 3 ears of sweet corn in the pot and boil for ten to fifteen minutes. Strip the cobs of the kernels with a knife (retain in a bowl), and place the cobs and shrimp shells back into the stock pot. Steep for twenty minutes, and strain the stock reserving the liquid. Discard the shells and cobs. Your stock is done.
In a large soup pot place ½ a stick of unsalted butter + olive oil and gently sauté the following:
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 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. Use an immersion blender. Lightly puree about half of the ingredients Add to your liking 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. I garnish with snipped chives from my patio garden, but parsley works too. / rba
The magazine article recommends a Chardonnay as the perfect accompaniment to this chowder. My vote, with my Northern Michigan roots, is an unoaked Chardonnay. They have become so popular these last ten years and for good reason. Serving this corn chowder as a dinner allows you to enjoy a whole bottle. The chowder isn’t bad either.
Comments: 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 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 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-five 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 sweetness for many days after harvest. We now can enjoy fresh corn year round and each variety boasts subtle differences.