Shrimp has been on my mind for two weeks now. Something I rarely eat, if only around the holidays in frozen ring-form (which, if we’re speaking freely here, I love). I held off on the craving just long enough to have it overlap with another – chowder. Creamy and rich, packed with corn and potatoes and yes, much to my heart’s content, shrimp. I decided to make a version off the cuff, tasting as I went and adjusting things to suit exactly what I was in the mood for. And wouldn’t you know it, it was one of the best chowders I’ve ever made, if not eaten. And yes, I am absolutely tooting my own horn. Sometimes it’s OK…under extreme circumstances….no? TOOT TOOT.
This is exactly what every cold day needs. The perfect amount of heat to thaw your bones, a rich and creamy base flecked with smoked paprika and cumin, and big chunks of spicy shrimp, sweet potato and corn to keep your tummy full and happy. If you don’t care much for seafood, chicken or sausage would be a great substitute (especially Chorizo or Andouille Sausage to keep with the Southwest feel of the recipe).
Smokey Shrimp, Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder
makes 6-8 mug-sized servings
4 slices bacon (this is optional but the smokiness is wicked good)
veg oil/olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 small sweet potatoes, diced 1″ thick
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 tsp smoked or regular paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups stock
3 cups 2% milk
10-15 large shrimp (black tiger is great)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
pinch or two red pepper flakes
For the chowder:
Dice up your bacon and cook in a large heavy soup pot over med-high heat until fat has rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon to paper towel.
There should be about 2-3 tbsp rendered bacon fat in the bottom of your pot. If there is less, add a bit of vegetable or olive oil to top it up. Turn heat down to low-medium. Add the diced onion and celery and cook until translucent, 4-5 minutes Add in sweet potato, stir and cover. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until sweet potato is starting to soften. Add thyme and spices and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add in flour and cook, stirring constantly,for another minute. Pour in stock and milk and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking constantly. It should start to thicken. Pour in the corn kernels. Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until it’s thick and creamy. If it’s too thick, add in some more milk or stock to thin it out. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
For the shrimp:
While soup simmers and thickens, toss your peeled and de-veined shrimp with the spices. Let rest for 2 minutes. Add vegetable oil to a pan over med-high heat and cook shrimp, one layer at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through and starting to curl and turn golden brown.
At this point, you can leave shrimp whole to top the soup or cut into bite-sized chunks and toss into soup. Top with bacon bits, fresh ground pepper and thyme leaves. Ladle into mugs and enjoy!