Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bacon, corn & shrimp chowder

It seems that I've fallen pretty hard for summer this year.  It's still no winter, but I've come around to this season of heat, humidity, and sun.  (I'm certain the endless supply of ice cream is partially responsible.)

That being said, hooray for rainy afternoons and momentarily cooler temperatures!

I've been waiting for months to make this perfect-for-summer-soup. Why haven't I made it yet?  Because it's simply been too hot for soup.  I guess there's a reason gazpacho is kind of a big deal around this time of year.

No offense to gazpacho makers and lovers out there, but if you can get past the whole temperature thing and make this -- dinner is hot nearly every night anyway, right? -- you'll have a new favorite summer soup.  This soup.  Because it's got bacon.


I see you (yes, you!) nodding.  I could stop there because that's enough to make my heart soar and stomach yearn, but I'll continue.

Sweet onions and fresh corn, jumbo shrimp, and that signature flavor that could only come from one source -- Old Bay seasoning.

So many flavors and textures.  Salty and sweet, a little spicy and a little creamy.  In the words of Chandler Bing in the blackout episode of Friends, it's "perfection."

Turns out that it's also the kind of soup that is so comforting that you'll want to hug the bowl whether it's 90 degrees and hot or 30 and snowing.  It's that good. 

I don't know why that surprised me.  How on earth could bacon and shrimp ever be bad?

Bacon, Corn & Shrimp Chowder
-serves 4

A few notes: I had fresh corn two weeks before I made this soup but had cut off the kernels and frozen them until I was ready to use it.  Worked perfectly!  For an extra kick, try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper or some red pepper flakes.

4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed (or 2 cups frozen)
4 slices uncooked bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
Ground black pepper
3/4 pound raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, plus more if desired
Chopped chives, for garnish

In a large stock pot over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring frequently, until just beginning to crisp and brown.  Remove bacon to paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Add onions to cook in bacon renderings until softened and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic and corn and stir just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add broth, milk, Old Bay, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Uncover and stir.  Transfer half of the soup to a blender and (carefully!) pulse a few times.  (Alternatively, use an immersion blender and blend soup slightly in stock pot.)  You want to thicken the soup slightly but not totally remove texture from pieces of bacon and corn.  Return soup to simmer and add shrimp, stirring until they turn pink.  Remove from heat.  Season to taste.  Garnish with chives and serve immediately.  Enjoy with crackers or crusty bread, yum!

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