What makes a chowder a chowder, and not just a fish soup? The name comes from the French word chaudiere, a three-legged cauldron. When ships returned from the sea, every village had a large chaudiere waiting at the dock; each fisherman added a portion of his catch, big pieces of fish cleaned and cut right on the boat, to be served later as a communal meal. It's a shame that most of us no longer get our fish directly from the docks, and that we make chowder in our own kitchens instead of a communal pot. While our way of life has changed, the basic chowder remains the same: a fish-based soup, thick with big chunks of fish or shellfish. This shrimp, corn and bacon chowder gets a double whammy of smoky flavor from pimentón (smoked paprika) and the bacon. I call it a pantry chowder, because I always have shrimp and corn in the freezer, and a combination of clam and chicken broths from the pantry makes a fine substitute for fresh fish stock.
Smoky shrimp, corn and bacon chowder
6 oz sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
10 oz frozen corn
8 oz clam broth
2 cups chicken broth (homemade or low-sodium store-bought)
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup skim (nonfat) milk
8 oz medium (26-30 size) shrimp, peeled and deveined (defrosted if frozen)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
In a Dutch oven or large sauce pan, cook the bacon over low heat until it's crisp, but not burned. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Pour off all but 2 teaspoons of the bacon drippings.
Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not yet brown.
Add the garlic, paprika and cayenne, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the potato, and mix well to coat the potatoes with the seasoning. Stir in the corn, clam broth, chicken broth, half-and-half and milk. Raise heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.
Reduce heat to low, and add the shrimp. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and curled. Stir in the parsley and the reserved bacon. Taste the soup, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed.
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