Seasonal Comforts: Spicy Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Sometimes, a meal really begs to be made from scratch. Sure, you can cut corners here and there and sometimes that might even be the only way you'll get it to grace your table, but spending a bit more time and working with the freshest ingredients and layering flavors gives your finished meal the depth you just cannot manage with convenience products and workarounds. That kind of depth is what I'm offering you with this spicy shrimp and corn chowder.

By using shrimp still in the shell and corn still on the cob, you get shells and cobs to make a custom stock for this chowder that just can't be achieved any other way. Sure, you could use chicken stock, but the complexity of flavor this chowder gets from the half hour or so of extra time making the stock adds to the recipe is simply unparalleled. On the other hand, I am a firm believer in never peeling thin-skinned potatoes like the Yukon golds called for in this recipe. The skins nearly melt into the chowder and add fiber to the finished product. Keep 'em on and use that time to make the stock instead!

Finally, instead of tossing the shrimp into the soup early in the process, they get their own spicy-sweet treatment and get added to the chowder as it's being served. That means the shrimp has it's own bold flavor that holds its own against the sweet, creamy chowder. When it comes to autumn comfort food, this is a soup I simply must have on the menu!

Spicy Shrimp and Corn Chowder

  • 10 oz. shell-on large shrimp
  • 4 ears fresh yellow sweet corn
  • 3 c. water
  • 2 T. bacon fat
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • ½ large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 T. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 T. cornstarch, stirred and dissolved into 2 T. water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. chili-garlic paste (choose your favorite variety or make your own)

Peel and devein the shrimp; separating the shrimp and the shells. Husk the corn and remove the silk. Cut the kernels from the cobs into a bowl. This should give you a couple cups of corn. Separate the corn and the cobs.

To make the shrimp-corn stock, place the reserved shrimp shells and corn cobs into the pot of the Instant Pot or a stock pot. Add 3 cups of water and either 1) lock the lid of the Instant Pot in place and set it to cook at high pressure for 20 minutes, allowing it to naturally release after cooking, or 2) put a lid on the stock pot and bring the contents of the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to allow a simmer, and let the stock simmer for 30 minutes. After the stock has been made, drain the liquid off the shells and cobs, which can then be discarded.

Heat a 4 quart heavy pot over low heat and add the bacon fat. Add the onion, bell pepper, thyme, and smoked paprika and sauté, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, until the onions and peppers are soft. Add the reserved corn kernels, potatoes, and drained shrimp-corn stock. Turn up the heat, cover, and boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the lid, and then use the back of your spoon to smash some of the corn kernels and potatoes against the side of the pot.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the salt and pepper. Stir the cornstarch mixture and slowly pour it into the pot, stirring constantly. As soon as the chowder has come back to a boil and thickened slightly, remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Allow the chowder to rest while you prepare the spicy shrimp.

In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter fully. Add the reserved shrimp and sauté until the shrimp are fully pink and a little browned at the edges. Add the chili-garlic paste and stir gently to fully coat the shrimp. Remove from the heat.

To serve, ladle the chowder into bowls and stack several shrimp in the center of each bowl.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: About 1 hour

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