It’s time for corn. I’ve been thinking and saying a lot lately that if I could, I would skip summer altogether. As you know, I am a soup person. Although some people like to believe that there is a season for soup, I say nay. Every season is a season for soup. However, not every season is a season for living and thriving joyfully and summer can get bent as far as I’m concerned. Yes, I do love the sun. I love hot weather. Swimming is very cool to me. But there is nothing, nothing like the fall. The air chills out and the day darkens and the cretins of summer return to their lairs. It’s equally comfortable inside and outside the house and an equilibrium is established between my brain and soul and the outside world. It’s fucking delicious! I’ve been savoring the small taste of fall we have gotten this past week as it cooled to below 75° for a few days which has brought up all of these feelings. My yearning aside, it’s time for corn. One beautiful and undeniably incredible thing about summer is the produce. This dip in temperature coupled with the farmer’s markets teeming with corn can mean only one thing. Let’s make chowder.
Last week, I finally caught covid for the first time. It was wild. There was a wave going around and I have generally abandoned all defenses, so I was not surprised when I tested positive. I was surprised, however, by how sick I became. I was down for a whole week and ended up in quarantine for a full ten days before testing negative on the eleventh. In my isolation I cooked and ate a lot, and I thought about corn chowder constantly. As soon as my liberation was upon me, I started throwing this recipe together and the result has satisfied my deepest darkest fever-ridden shoulder-clutching NyQuil-chugging balloon-headed cravings.
I am using tail-on shrimp and that is what I recommend. It’s an easy compromise between fully cleaned and shell on. You still get some infusion of flavor from the tails without having to peel the whole shrimp and get chowder all over your fingers.
When searing the shrimp, do not overcrowd the bottom of the pot. They will only take a moment on each side to sear. Take care not to overcook them, you should still see some grey color throughout. They will finish cooking in the soup later.
You can use whatever mushrooms you prefer. I am using cremini in this recipe but have also used shiitake for corn chowders in the past. Separate the stems from the caps, and use the stems for the broth and the caps for the soup.
Omit the red Fresno chili if you are not a spicy gurl
1.5 lb. tail-on shrimp
1 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. sumac
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
6 corn cobs
1 onion (halved)
1 garlic head (halved)
1 lb. mushrooms (stems only)
1 bunch of thyme
2 tbsp. peppercorn
Scallions (white parts)
3 qt. water
1/3 cup white wine
1 lb. mushrooms (caps), diced
4 tbsp. butter
1 leak, diced
1 red Fresno chili, diced (optional)
6 ears corn kernels
1/4 cup flour
5 red potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 qt. corn broth
1 pint heavy cream
Scallions (green parts) & Cilantro
Toss the shrimp with spices and set aside. Remove corn from cob. Separate stems from mushrooms and green parts from the white parts of the scallions. Place all broth ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for one hour. Turn off the heat and place a lid on the pot to steep until you are ready to use it in the chowder. Broth should yield 2 – 2.5 quarts. You most likely will not use all the broth in the chowder and may have a cup or two left over. Broth will freeze well for up to 3 months and can be used anywhere you would use vegetable or chicken broth.
In a Dutch oven on medium heat, working in batches, sear shrimp on both sides. Place in a bowl and set aside. Add white wine to the pot and stir, scraping the fond from the pot. Add mushrooms and simmer until the mushrooms have fully absorbed the white wine. Add butter, leak, and chili. Stir until butter is melted and sweat vegetables for one minute. Add corn and stir. Sweat corn and vegetable mixture for five minutes. Add flour and stir until it us fully absorbed. Add potatoes. Gradually add corn broth, stirring constantly until all the flour is incorporated and soup starts to thicken. Add heavy cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. If the soup is too thick, add more corn broth. If the soup is not thick enough, blend the soup for a few pulses with an immersion blender or take two cups of the chowder and blend in a countertop blender and add it back into the pot. Turn off heat and add shrimp. Salt to taste. Add scallions and cilantro and stir in.
Do not forget to salt every step of the way. This soup benefits from a rest. After adding the shrimp and herbs, place the lid on the pot and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Top with seasoned oyster crackers and more herbs.
As always, I am using Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If you are using a different kosher salt, judge yourself accordingly. Different brands have different sized crystals resulting in varying absorption rates and salinity. Be careful out there.
TOASTED SEASONED OYSTER CRACKERS
2 cups oyster crackers
3 tbsp. melted butter
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
Heat oven to 350°. Toss crackers in butter and spices. Spread crackers out on a sheet tray and bake for 7 minutes, stir crackers, turn the sheet tray around and bake for 5-7 more minutes. Set the tray on the counter to cool and then go ahead and snack on them and put them on your soup. These crackers are simple and delicious and can add a little impressive something extra to just about any soup.
Fall is right around the corner. I feel like Lorelei Gilmore when it’s just about to snow. I can smell it. I hope everyone is having the best summer of their lives. I’m sorry for earlier in this issue of this newsletter when I said the f word. I get really jazzed about fall. I’m not really sorry, but my mom is going to read this. Love you mom. I would like to recommend watching the new series A League of Their Own on Amazon Prime. It was shot in Pittsburgh last year and I think it is 10/10. I watched the whole show twice in one weekend. I also recommend following @humanthomas on Instagram. He is reviewing apples and it’s very funny and entertaining content. Can you tell I was trapped in my house for ten days? Me neither. Thanks for coming. I love you so much.
this is so lovely -- i moved away from pittsburgh just last month and i miss Mayfly and yr. soup desperately. will make some corn chowder with farmer's market corn this weekend. thank you for it <3