Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Hello, everyone!  Happy Thursday!  I don't know about where you are, but it is snowing here, and the whole state has lost their minds!  I'm in the South, so we get one, mayyybbbeee two snow days per year, and when we do get snow, everyone panics and buys up all of the milk and bread in the grocery store.
This always baffles me.  Between tonight and tomorrow morning, we're supposed to get between 6-8 inches, and while that is a lot (for us, anyway), it will all be gone in a day or so.  It's not like we're going to be snowed in for days and days.
There have been a couple of times where I've gone to the store, in actual need of milk - I have a kid, we go through a lot of milk, only to either go to multiple store, or debate between getting her buttermilk or a bunch of the single serving containers to hold her over.
Not to mention that I love milk, too, but these are some desperate times!
Wow, that's a random tangent to go off on!  Let's do I transition from my milk rant to delicious shrimp and corn chowder soup?  
Let me try again.....
I do actually have something to admit here.  When it comes to cooking shrimp, I tend to fall into a rut.  A scrumptious rut, but a rut nonetheless.  It's either fried, sauteed, or scampi.   
I wanted to shake things up a bit, and since I make a lot soups over the winter, I figured I'd see what I could do about working some shrimp into a chowder type soup.
Here's your grocery list:
1 quart of corn stock* (or chicken stock)
2 C corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined 
2 slices of bacon
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBS smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flake, which is optional
1 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 C fresh parsley
1/4 C heavy cream

*Corn stock:
12 corn cobs (give or take)
1 Tbs dried thyme
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 quart of water
Salt to taste 

My husband actually complimented me on this, without my having to prompt him.  This is huge.  Normally, he'll sit down and eat, and that will be the end of it.  I'll ask how it is, and he'll usually say, "Fine."
"Fine."  Great.
However, tonight, he actually said, "Wow, this is nice."
I was over the moon, and instantly filed this one away to make again!  Aside from being "nice", it was also really easy!

To start off with, lets make the corn stock.  Over the summer, I saved some of the corn cobs that were leftover after suppers; I just popped them into a zip top bag, and popped them in the freezer.  I ended up with 8 corn cobs (I saved them when I remembered...), I got 4 more fresh ears at the store, because I wanted some fresh corn for this, so I had a total of 12.
So, I just put them in a pot, with some dried thyme and dried parsley - cover and let this simmer for about an hour and a half.  Strain and let this cool; you can either use this for this chowder or pop it into the freezer for a later use.  The corn flavor is amazing!

Now that that is done, lets turn our attention to the beautiful shrimp!  I also save the shells in a baggie in my freezer (I have a shelf in my freezer just for "future stock" stuff!), to keep for shrimp stock.  I thought about making some up for this dish, but I'm thinking of a lobster bisque later, and am probably going to use those for that.
I took two slices of bacon, sliced them in half, and cooked them off in a small skillet; while these cook off, mince up the garlic, and set aside.

Once your bacon has cooked, set it aside, and pour about 1 Tbs of the fat into a big pot.  You don't have to use the bacon fat, of course, but it's right there, so you may as well, right?  Let this heat over medium high heat for a minute or so, place your shrimp in a single layer, and sear each side for about 2 minutes, then remove to a plate (you may have to do this in batches); add in the garlic, letting this cook gently for another minute.

While your garlic is cooking, add in your smoked paprika and Old Bay Seasoning, then add in your corn.  If you need to add in some extra bacon fat, go for it!  

Crumble your reserved bacon up, and mix in with the corn.  Let this cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes before adding in your corn stock (or chicken stock).

Add in your heavy cream, bring this up to a boil, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, letting it thicken to your liking.  Taste this, and check the seasonings - if it needs more salt, add it!  If you want a bit of spice, add in some red pepper flakes, or some cayenne pepper.  I'm not crazy about spicy food, so this was good for me.

Toss in your fresh parsley, and, using an immersion blender (or food processor, or regular blender), puree about half of the soup.  You want there to be some texture, but the pureed corn will help to thicken up the soup a bit more.  Depending on how much bacon fat you used, you may notice a film developing on top of the soup - just use a spoon, and scoop it out.  Easy peasy!

Add in your shrimp and let them warm though, about 5 minutes, then dish it up and dig in!  The corn really shines here, but the shrimp are tender and sweet; this is like a warm hug on a cold day, which, we all are going through right now, so treat yourself to a hug!