Have you ever had this experience? You’re watching a cooking show, maybe Emeril Lagasse, and the chef prepares a lovely mirepoix of onions, celery and carrots. Your mouth starts to water as he adds garlic and peppers. You nod appreciatively as he flavors broth with herbs and combines everything with some fresh corn that he has pulsed in the food processor. Then you recoil as he pours in a pint of heavy cream and find yourself yelling “No, Emeril, no!” at the TV as he dumps in 2 pounds of peeled shrimp.
As an omnivore I used to make a shrimp chowder recipe from Southern Living that gave me this reaction, even as I was making it. Don’t get me wrong: at the time, I loved shrimp, but I just didn’t think it was necessary here. However, if I simply left out the seafood and high-fat dairy, the soup was too plain. It needed another flavor or two to round it out.
I have a peanut soup recipe that is surprisingly similar to my old chowder recipe and thought about replacing the peanut butter with additional corn, but felt something was still missing. Deborah Madison, however, had the answer for me. Her recipe for white corn chowder with a smoky swirl (in her vegetable soup cookbook
) contains Spanish smoked paprika and thyme. Perfect!
Ms. Madison makes her broth from the vegetable trimmings before starting the soup proper, but I wanted something quicker, so I skipped that step and used some home made broth from my freezer. Also, since I wanted a year-round recipe, I used canned corn, but you could easily use corn cut straight from the cob. In that case, 3 cups would suffice, and you could even run a couple of cups through the food processor with some water to make “creamed” corn.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, about 8 oz., diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 1 or 2 hot peppers, minced (optional)
- 1 medium potato, about 8 oz., diced
- 3 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1 15-ounce can creamed corn
- 1 7-ounce can whole corn, undrained
- 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- salt to taste
Heat oil in a large pot. Sauté onion, carrots, celery, garlic and peppers until vegetables are tender. Add potato and remaining ingredients, through bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Taste for salt.
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