The latest issue of Saveur has a nice piece on shrimp and includes (among several typically fine recipes) a recipe from Sam Hayward (of Fore St. in Portland, ME) for Shrimp Chowder. The recipe looked mightily appealing, but didn't quite fit my current dietary mindset. A good dumping of snow on Friday got me into a soupmaking head, and I decided to risk the chowder, making a few concessions to lower-impact cooking.
The recipe isn't online yet, and I'll be damned if I'm going to type it out, so here's a photo of the most important part:
I'm not one to follow recipes, unless I'm baking, and instead treat a recipe as a rough outline. So, in addition to cutting down on the fat involved, I rejiggered freely for quantity (the recipe's for 4; I was only feeding 2), flavor and availability of ingredients. My mostly excellent fish market didn't have the Maine bugs called for – only standard large brown shrimp, and those without heads. I bought a pound and a half.
The instructions called for removing the shells and heads from the shrimp and simmering them in water to make a stock. I used the shells etc. from all of the shrimp, plus a few whole shrimp, reserved 12 peeled shrimp for the chowder and froze the rest for another time. I added some carrot, celery, and onion to the pot, along with half a bay leaf, to round out the flavor.
The chowder base is made by sautéeing the bacon (blanched and drained) with the potato and leek & then adding the shrimp stock. I used the full 1/4 oz. of bacon, 1 medium potato, 1 medium leek, and 4 cups of stock. Somehow thyme seemed a better fit than chives (not least because I had thyme, but no chives, on hand) so I tossed in a sprig. This all simmered until the potatoes were just soft, and was then removed from the heat and set aside.
The final step is to melt the butter in a sauté pan, then add the shrimp & cream and boil until the shrimp are barely cooked and the cream is slightly reduced. This then gets stirred into the base, along with the seasonings. I used a scant teaspoon of butter and 1/4 cup of cream with the 12 reserved shrimp, slightly more than a pinch of cayenne, and a generous dose of salt and freshly ground pepper.
I can't vouch for the Weight Watchers points with any accuracy, but the chowder was fragrant, full-flavored, and delicately “creamy”, with a satisfying catch at the back of the throat from the cayenne. I served it with a length of warm baguette, a chilled Premier Cru Chablis (the only white I had in stock) and a bit of the always charming Constant Bliss from Jasper Hill. A little decadent, but welcome on a winter's Saturday night.