Saturday, January 31, 2009

CSA week nine - corn shrimp and sausage chowder

I looked at a few corn and shrimp soup recipes trying to decide just what I wanted to make, but I ended up mainly just winging it.

The first step was to get the corn off the cobs since I need the cobs to make the stock in step two. I used the Bobby Flay method I picked up watching Iron Chef: hold the cob vertically in a medium bowl and slice the kernels off downward without slicing too close to the cob to avoid getting too many nasty bits into the corn. Once the cob is bare, scrape it down with the back of the knife to get the corn-bits that stuck and the corn milk. I found I had to scrape both directions to get everything.

Next up, that shrimp stock. The two cobs, broken in half, go into a pot with half an onion, a couple of smashed garlic cloves, a couple celery ribs, a couple pieces of carrot and the 12 ounces of shrimp shells I've been accumulating in the freezer. That seems like enough for four cups of water, but it took five cups to cover so I'm hoping for the best here. That all comes up to a boil for thirty minutes of covered simmering before straining. I didn't add any salt so I can more easily control the salt in the dishes I use it in. That, I read recently, is how you're supposed to do it. OK.

Meanwhile, I brined my shrimp with both salt and sugar. I only have a quarter pound so I also defrosted a couple links of southern-style sausage and sliced them into quarter-inch coins. Oh, hey, I bought some potatoes earlier today. (I don't usually keep them around. I understand they're not actually very good for you. Unlike southern-style sausage.) I finely diced one of those too. When I got tired of waiting I pulled the shrimp from the brine, shelled them and cut them into quarters.

I only got a cup and a third of corn out of my two ears so I'm setting that aside to be the chunky part of the soup. Another cup of corn from the freezer I blended with a cup of my shrimp broth to thicken the soup.

Next up are my aromatics: a quarter cup each of red bell pepper (I guess I'm not stuffing it after-all), green bell pepper (from last week), celery and onion. Also, I chopped a handful of cilantro and the rest of the onion.

Now, I think I'm ready to start cooking.

I started by browning the sausage in a Tablespoon of butter, a minute or two on each side over medium-high heat.

Then I removed them and browned the potatoes.

I removed the potatoes, turned down the heat to medium low and added my aromatics including the extra onion I decided to chop, but not the cilantro. The potato absorbed a bit more fat than I had hoped for so I added a bit more butter.

After five minutes I returned the sausage and potato and added the blended corn mixture along with another cup and a half of stock, the fresh corn, most of the cilantro and some salt and pepper. I brought that back up to a boil and then simmered for ten minutes on medium-low heat until the corn and potatoes were tender. (The potatoes more than the corn. I may hold off returning the potatoes until later next time.)

Then I added the shrimp and a half cup of cream and simmered for five minutes more. And it's done.

The broth has lots of flavor, not just from the corn, but from all those additions, too none of which have had time to complete dissolve so there's lots of texture here. The shrimp and sausage aren't washed out so they retain their individual flavor and texture in the mix and their flavors haven't had time to leach out into the soup so each spoonful is a bit different. The fresh corn is a touch undercooked but has a lot of sweet fresh flavor even after being boiled for fifteen minutes. I think that shows a very real difference between CSA corn and supermarket corn. The soup needs a shot of hot sauce at the end, but that's traditional so I deliberately avoided adding any heat earlier on. So, overall, not too bad for a first try.

And now I'm tired. I'll post about the stone crab picnic tomorrow.


kat said...

My kind of soup!

Anonymous said...

Looks awesome, making a 3X batch for a long family weekend. What happens if you add the cream, but don't serve for a few hours?

Anonymous said...


billjac said...

I don't think three hours is going to hurt the cream, but there is another problem.

Keeping the soup above bacterial-growth temperatures for three hours, even if you keep it below a full simmer, would ruin the shrimp (and maybe the potatoes) so you really need to add those at the last minute. And if you're going to do that, you may as well as the cream then too.