Spoonin' some slurpy stuff about the world's drippiest drool

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Corn and Lobster Chowder

Corn and Lobster Chowder

Soup is one of those dishes that can be made quickly in a pinch - store bought broth and precut or frozen vegetables definitely speed up the process. Last night I had the luxury of breaking a soup into its individual parts, and pulling as much flavor as possible out of each of those components. Was the difference noticeable? Who knows. I can tell you the personal satisfaction was significant.

This is a simple recipe. Start with a fat, add onions, add stock and aromatics, add more vegetables, top with lobster. Season to taste. Done.

Or not. Start by thinking about the stock. The recipe calls for chicken broth - but this is corn and lobster soup - no chicken in the name. It makes sense to use chicken broth - it adds some richness without overpowering the other flavors, but its the other flavors that are so important to the soup. So - to increase the corn flavor, I cooked the corn on the cob, cut off the kernals and tossed the cobs in the broth. All of that milky corn sweetness was transferred to the broth.

As for the lobster, I am a chicken. I hate it that I don't have the guts to throw the lobster in the pot myself, and have to ask the fish monger at the store to be my lobster hit man, but there it is. I had two lobsters steamed and brought them home. As delicious as the meat is, the shells and juices are equally valuable. I opend up the lobsters over the broth, draining all the delicious juices into the pot, salvaged the sweet meat and threw the shells in the stock to add as much briny seafood flavor as possible. The chicken broth is now but a memory - adding lovely color and richness, but truly overshadowed by lobster and corn.

And the rest goes back to being simple. The fresher and sweeter the corn, the better. Fresh off the cob can't be beat - every bite ends in sweetness. I used red bell pepper instead of yellow to add a bit of color - since the soup isn't pureed color consistency is not a major issue. I also used very thinly sliced leek instead of scallions - just what was on hand. I didn't add any heat, but next time I think I will throw in a bit of cayenne - if the corn is sweet enough, it really can stand up to it, and the half and half will help with the balance. Too hot and the corn will be lost though, so it will be important to taste as I add. A handful of chopped parsley (added after I pulled the shells and cobs out)added more color, flavors and a bit of thickening to the soup. The flat leaf was the right choice for this soup - curly would have been too peppery.

Finally, season to taste. Possibly the least helphul phrase known to man. I added smoked salt and pepper. Tasted, added a bit more smoked salt, until I was at about two teaspoons. Probably could have added a bit more, but the smokiness was tastable, and I hadn't overtaken the sweetness of the stock, so I quit while I was ahead.

Start to finish, this version took about two hours (and one glass of wine). I would say, with store stock, lobster tales and frozen corn, probably you could cut it to an hour and the results will be fine. As for the satisfaction...