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The “Oh my God I can’t believe this really tastes like chowder” Chowder

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I’ve always been a huge fan of chowder, particularly New England, but two key things always stopped me from making it:

1. Though I love it so, the creamy base would turn into an inevitable stomach churner.
2. Since he was little, Hubby always threw up immediately after consuming New England clam chowder.

Thus came the chowder-less years in our relationship.  Neither of us really thought about it, until we took a trip to Newport and Boston last fall and knew it was sin not to partake in the area’s most famous dish.  The compromise?  A fantastic, award-winning scallop chowder in Newport, laden with a light creaminess that we fought over to the last spoonful.  (By the way, as each anniversary passes, I seem to be more reluctant to evenly share food with Hubby – you snooze, you lose).  I was still thinking about that chowder a whole year later.

A few weeks ago I came across a recipe for creamed corn in an issue of Food & Wine that had no cream.  Kevin Gillespie (from Top Chef) used an ingenious technique where half the kernels was sliced off the cob, while the other half was grated against a box grater to release the starchy juices.  You ended up with a nice thick, creamy corn that just needed to be heated up with sauteed onions.  It was a double win because it was healthier/lactose friendly, and it celebrated the sweetness of summer corn instead of masking it with cream or milk.

Looking for a new way to use this method and capture the essence of that Newport chowder, I came up with this recipe.  We were both in awe at how good it was; we were even more awed by how good the leftovers tasted.  I think it would also be fantastic as a vegetarian chowder, adding extra corn and leeks in lieu of the seafood, using vegetable broth with maybe mushrooms instead of the chicken broth and shrimp shells.

Cream-Free Shrimp & Scallop Chowder
Original Recipe

1/2 lb. raw shrimp, shells intact
1 1/2  cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups white wine

1 1/2 cups of the following, any ratio: diced onion, leek, and/or scallion
1 medium potato, about 1/2 inch dice
3 ears of fresh corn, husked
1 T cornstarch + 2 T chicken broth, mixed smooth (called a slurry)

1/2 lb. scallops (any size, cut into 1/2 inch pieces if necessary)
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the shrimp and corn:
Shell and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells for the stock.  Slice shrimp into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.

Using a sharp knife over a shallow bowl or plate, cut the kernels off 1 ear of corn.  Using a box grater, grate the last 2 ears of corn into the same container to release the juices.  Set aside.

Make the stock:
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the chicken broth, 1/2 cup wine, and shrimp shells.  Simmer for 5 minutes or until flavorful – add up to 1/4 cup of wine if necessary.  Remove from heat.

Make the chowder:
Heat 1 T unsalted butter or olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion/leek/scallion and stir occasionally until soft, about 5 minutes.  Increase heat to medium high and stir in broth mixture and potatoes.  Briskly simmer until potatoes are almost cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Lower heat to medium and add corn kernel mixture and slurry.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until thickened and then add scallops and shrimp.  Remove from heat once shrimp are cooked through (less than a minute).  Serve immediately.  Leftovers do reheat well.

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