When corn season comes around, I think one thing… Chowda! Pierre is from Maine, so I feel like that makes him a bit of an expert on the subject. I on the other hand, grew up eating Campbell’s Chunky New England Clam Chowder. It is a little embarrassing that I still love it.
When I started making Chowder, I did what I always do. I read tons of recipes online and then made my own way of doing it. I learned by accident that the corn and potatoes make the soup thicker and creamier without adding flour. I really did not want to add flour (although I am fairly certain there is a thickening agent in my beloved Chunky can). This soup is nothing like what comes in a can. I know that when I eat chowder, I tend to add hot sauce. I wanted to make my version slightly spicy without adding hot sauce.
To me, chowder should have a bacon flavor. I don’t actually like bacon in my chowder, so when I sautee my veggies, I use a mixture of bacon fat and extra virgin olive oil. The bacon fat gives the finished product a slightly smokey flavor without the gross texture of soggy bacon.
A second ingredient that gives this chowder a smokey quality with a hint of spice is the poblano peppers. I like to remove that translucent layer of skin by charring the peppers on all sides. I do this in my toaster oven under the broiler. I occasionally do this on the grill. If you have a gas stove, you can do this by placing the pepper directly on the burner. I broil each side until it is bubbly and charred.
Then, I place them in a plastic or paper bag and allow them to sit for 10-20 minutes. This helps the translucent film to lift off of the pepper.
I peel off the skin and chop the peppers.
Set aside for use later in the soup.
In an 8 quart pot, I add a small amount of bacon fat and extra virgin olive oil and heat on medium.
I use about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
I use about 1/2 of an onion, diced and about 4 small, locally grown carrots, diced. I cook them until they are tender. Salt to taste.
While the carrots and onions are cooking, I cut potatoes and corn. I cut 5 small, locally grown potatoes very small and thin. If they are small and thin, they will breakdown during cooking and add to the thickness and richness of the broth. I also cut the kernels off of three corn cobs. It is very important to keep the cobs. (Note: The corn, hot peppers, and potatoes were purchased from Bedner’s at the McDonald Farmer’s Market).
I add the corn and potatoes to the carrots and onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Salt to taste.
After the veggies have started to cook. I cover them with water and add the corn cobs. Adding the corn cobs gives the broth a stronger corn flavor and also adds to the creamy texture of the soup. In addition, because I like heat, I added some very hot chili peppers cut very small. You can definitely omit this if you are not into spicy food. Also, add a bay leaf and the poblano peppers. Then, I let it simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
I add salt to taste, cayenne pepper (you can omit), and smoked paprika. I think smoked paprika is essential. Remove the corn cobs.
At this point, I like to add some type of shellfish that still has the shell on and is raw. I choose fresh, raw shrimp because it was available at the grocery store and was fresh that day. I simply put the shrimp on top of the soup and let them simmer for 1-2 minutes per side until they were pink. Then, I remove them from the soup and peel them. I do not add them into the broth because I do not like chewy shrimp.
After removing the shrimp, I chop some tilapia filets into bite sized pieces. I add them to the soup and allow to cook thoroughly. Then I add milk and cream. I add milk because it gives it the white color without all the fat of using only cream. Then I add cream to taste. I use about 1 cup of milk and about 1/4 cup of cream. I bring it back to a boil and taste for seasoning. Then, to make it extra silky, I add a small piece of butter.
I serve this with a slice of crusty bread.
If you are not able to use dairy, I have made this using coconut milk (from the can). It is just as delicious, with a very slight hint of coconut flavor. I have also used red curry paste in this recipe and it is fantastic, especially with a garnish of cilantro!
This is thinner than the Chunky soup but has a richer taste. We eat very small bowls of it. It is a great end of summer and early fall recipe to use that great, local corn!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: soup/stew entree side gluten-free nut-free soy-free shrimp summer fall
- 2 poblano peppers
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 3-5 small carrots or 1-2 large carrots, diced
- 3 ears of corn, remove the kernels and save the cobs
- 5-6 small potatoes, quartered and sliced very thinly
- 2-3 chili peppers, diced (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/2 pound of raw shrimp with the shells on
- 1/2 pound of tilapia, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon of butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place poblano peppers under the broiler until all sides are charred and bubbling. Place in a plastic or brown paper bag for 10-20 minutes. Peel off the thin, translucent layer of skin. Chop and set aside.
In an 8 quart sauce pan, add the oil and bacon fat on medium. When the pan is warm, add the onions and carrots. Cook until they are tender. Salt to taste.
Add the corn kernels and potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes. Salt to taste.
Add water to cover the vegetables. Add the corn cobs to the water as well as the bay leaf, chili peppers, and the poblano peppers. Simmer on medium until the potatoes are cooked through. Add cayenne, smoked paprika, and salt to taste.
Remove the corn cobs and add the shrimp. Cook the shrimp in the broth for about 1-2 minutes per side until they are pink and slightly curled. Remove the shrimp and peel. Set aside.
Add the tilapia. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the milk and cream. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the butter.
Serve with a few pieces of shrimp on top. This does not freeze well but is good for about 2 days in the refrigerator.
You can substitute coconut milk for the regular milk and cream. It gives the soup a sweeter flavor.