From 'oops' to 'oohs' Entertaining: Popular corn-shrimp chowder begins as a happy accident in hosts' kitchen.

July 12, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

My husband and I recently drove from our home in Massachusetts to visit good friends in Connecticut. We were invited to a casual summer dinner and to spend the night. Our hosts, talented cooks and inveterate entertainers, served a delicious meal and assembled a fascinating group of guests. After dinner ended at midnight, we helped our friends quickly load the dishwasher and straighten up.

Not until the next morning, when we were all making breakfast together, did we see the big pot of water with the corn in it from the evening before. Our hostess started to throw it out, but I protested, claiming we could make a soup with the corn and some of the night's other leftovers. I scraped kernels from the cobs and reserved some of the water.

As our host prepared breakfast, I grabbed a few slices of his bacon and fried them until crisp in a large pot. Next, I sauteed corn kernels with chopped onions and diced red-skin potatoes (both found in the refrigerator). From the spice cupboard, I pulled out thyme, nutmeg and cayenne pepper for seasonings. Then I added the reserved corn liquid and simmered the mixture for about 15 minutes.

Looking in the refrigerator again, I discovered a handful of cooked shrimp (the remains of an appetizer from the previous evening) and some chopped parsley. Shrimp, parsley and crumbled bacon would make a fine garnish for the soup, but I needed some half and half to finish the chowder. None was to be found, but the hostess volunteered to buy some at the market later in the day.

My husband and I departed immediately after breakfast, leaving the soup for our hosts to complete and try later. The next morning I received a call from our friends. They had taken the chowder to neighbors to share for Sunday-night supper. Everyone had gone back for seconds and thirds, so my friends wanted the recipe - they wanted to make it for another dinner party.

In my kitchen, I repeated the soup, this time measuring ingredients and timing each step.

Like my friends, I've decided to serve this delicious and filling soup as a main course for summer suppers. A mixed-greens salad and crusty French bread are all that are needed to accompany it.

Corn Chowder With Shrimp and Bacon Garnish

Makes 6 servings.

8 ears corn, shucked

4 strips bacon

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

(1 medium onion)

2 red-skin potatoes (3/4 pound total), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more if needed

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more if needed

1 cup half and half

3/4 to 1 pound (about 18) large cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons chopped parsley or chives

Bring large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add ears of cor and cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove corn from water but reserve 4 cups water. When cool enough to handle, scrape kernels from cobs. Puree _ cup corn kernels and _ cup reserved cooking liquid in food processor or in blender. Set aside puree, remaining corn kernels and remaining reserved liquid.

L In large, heavy pan over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp.

Remove and drain on paper towels, then crumble and set aside.

Pour off and discard all but 2 teaspoons bacon drippings in pan. Place pan over medium heat and when drippings are hot, add onion, corn kernels, diced potatoes, thyme, nutmeg, cayenne and salt. Stir and cook 2 minutes.

Add pureed corn mixture and reserved cooking liquid and bring mixture to simmer. Lower heat so soup stays at gentle simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in half and half. Taste soup and add more salt and cayenne pepper if desired.

(Soup can be made 6 hours ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, when ready to serve.)

To serve, place shrimp in hot soup for 1 minute or less just to heat through. Then ladle soup into 6 shallow bowls, adding 3 shrimp to each. Garnish each serving with crumbled bacon and parsley.

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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