Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Golden Shrimp Chowder

During my childhood in New York City, my favourite soup was creamy New England Clam Chowder.  I know, I know, being a New Yorker I am supposed to be partial to a thinnish, tomato-based monstrosity called Manhattan Clam Chowder.  For me a chowder has to be thick, milky, salty, floury, and redolent with black pepper in order to be called a chowder.


I have yet to find large, succulent clams in France that I use for making a really good chowder, but it is easy to find fairly decent frozen, prepared shrimp.   Though substituting shrimp for clams, this recipe still retains many characteristics of my favourite chowderLacking cream and butter, this soup isn't highly caloric as its richness and golden colour relies on some of the shrimp and carrots being blended.

Ingredients
(makes 5 servings or lunch/supper for two)

  • Flour, white, 5 T
  • Shrimp, frozen, and already prepared/cooked, 1 1/4 cups*/200 grams
  • Water, 4 1/4 cups*/1 liter
  • Shrimp liquid, 1/4 cup*/60 ml
  • Carrots, small dice, 1 cup*/160 grams
  • Potatoes, cubed, 2 cups*/260 grams
  • Rosemary, fresh, 2 small sprigs (surplus can be dried) or dried, a large pinch
  • Milk, about 2 cups*/475 ml (depending on desired thickness)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
*American measure, that is 8 fluid oz cups.

Gather your ingredients.


Either thaw shrimp or gently heat frozen shrimp.

Heat shrimp gently for just a minute or two as not to make them rubbery.

Wring shrimp with your hands as dry as possible letting the liquid run into a small bowl.  Reserve shrimp. Pour the shrimp liquid into a medium-size pot and add the water.  While the soup base is being brought to a simmer, cube potatoes and dice carrots.  Carrots need to be in smaller pieces than the potatoes.  Simmer carrots for about five minutes till half tender.


Add potatoes and cook for another ten minutes or until the veggies are tender.  Remove one half of the veggies and add them to the reserved shrimp.


Add one half to two thirds of the shrimp to the pot and blend the contents till smooth.  You can add extra shrimp if you want a stronger presence of seafood.


Add some pot liquid to flour in a bowl and blend with a hand-held mixer till smooth. You can cream the flour with the hot liquid with a spoon, rubbing the mixture on the sides of the bowl until lump free but it is a laborious task.


Add more pot liquid to flour mixture until it is on the thinnish side.  Whisk well.


Add back to pot and cook while stirring for five minutes till thickened and raw taste of the flour is gone.  Add rosemary and milk.


Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Simmer gently while stirring a few minutes more or until nicely thickened.  If desired, soup can be made thicker with more flour paste or thinner with more milk. The rosemary bits can be sieved out using a slotted spoon if desired though I leave them in because they add a pretty touch.

Add the remaining veggies and shrimp and heat gently for a minute or two. Though subtly flavoured, this soup is satisfying both visually and taste-wise with its warm colour, veggie chunks, and unctuous consistency.


In the potager, the last bits of pruning are being done and transplanting is getting under way.  The grapes vines were one of the last candidates for pruning.  There are two common ways of vine pruning, cane and spur--I prefer the latter method.  Grapes are produced on the previous season's growth, therefore, it is necessary to cut back that growth to several buds.  If it is cut back completely, no grapes will form this late summer/early fall.

Before pruning

After pruning

The buds should be spaced several inches apart on the vine's scaffolding.

One of ten vines, a make-shift birdbath, and a blackberry bush in the right background.

I had already transplanted two rhubarb, but kept procrastinating about doing the third and last one.  Dayo graciously reminded me of this pressing task--which needs to get done before the plant fully leafs out--by skirting around the end of the bed that still was home to unproductive, four-year-old strawberry plants requiring removal as to allow room for the remaining rhubarb transplant.


Since rhubarb needs to be kept moist, I made watering wells around each plant.  As mulch is so precious in my garden, I will wait for this entire bed to be filled in fairly rapidly with their large, exuberant leaves.  The huge leaves will act as a living mulch.  Before that happens, I will scratch in an organic, balanced fertilizer (NPK of 10-10-10) around each plant and water well.

That scattering of white flowers in the upper left are wild English daisies.

Relieved that I finally gotten around to finishing the rhubarb transplanting, Dayo was able to relax in the sun, rolling about and joyously rubbing himself against the patio.


Being no slacker, Dayo soon returned to active duty, on alert for any unfinished chores.


À la prochaine!

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