By Tom Yates
Preparing for our Vacation is an adventure. I wanted to clean out the refrigerator and pantry before we left. It’s the classic what-my-parents-always-did-kind-of-thing to do. Leave a clean kitchen to return to a clean kitchen. A bit neurotic, yet sensible. I made it a game, like those shows on television that force people to use mystery baskets, secret ingredients, and time challenges to prepare a decent meal. I used what I had on hand. Meal by meal, I’ve emptied the cupboards, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. My dad would’ve been very proud.
The final challenge was the easiest. I simply used everything that was left for a hearty chowder. It was the perfect catch-all remedy. Chowder. Specifically, shrimp and corn chowder.
I had four ears of Peaches & Cream corn that were incredibly fresh. I shucked them on the back deck to avoid carpeting the kitchen floor with wispy corn silk. After shucking the corn, I stripped the kernels, used the back of the knife to milk the cob, and set it aside.
I pulled wild-caught peeled and deveined Mobile Gulf shrimp from the freezer to thaw. While the shrimp thawed under running water, I diced red bell peppers, onions, carrots, celery, and baby new potatoes.
Mise en place. Time to play. I julienned 1/2 red bell pepper, snipped a few chives, and minced fresh thyme. To gild the lily, I roasted precious prosciutto strips until they caramelized into luscious salty sweet pork brittle.
I sauteed the onions, red bell peppers, celery, and carrots with fresh thyme, salt, and pepper until they softened before deglazing the pan with my glass of wine, letting the wine reduce by half before adding 1/4 cup clam juice and two cups of chicken stock. I brought the chowder base to a boil, reduced it a simmer, refilled my wine glass, dropped the potatoes into the simmering stock, clamped on a lid, and rejoined Michael in the parlor.
When the potatoes were tender, I added 2 cups of heavy cream, allowing it to reduce and thicken to the perfect consistency. When the creamy chowder could coat the back of a spoon, I tumbled the fresh corn and shrimp into the velvety bath to steep for 3 minutes.
I ladled the shrimp and corn chowder into deep bowls, twirled julienned red bell peppers into the chowder, and showered it with fresh snipped chives. For crunch and saltiness, I crumbled crackling prosciutto crisps over the silken cream.
The chowder was ridiculously rich from the heavy cream. A given. Yet, the sweet corn and tender shrimp cut through the richness with soft bursts of wet freshness. Cleansing. Fresh. The creaminess was shattered with each bite of crispy prosciutto. They were the ultimate salty croutons. Crunchy pig. Briny shrimp. Sweet corn. Heavy cream.
We licked our bowls clean. Nothing could stop us.
This article also appears on page 17 of the July 3, 2014 print issue of Ace.
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