Another Halloween has come and gone and let me tell you, this year’s “trick or treating” haul was a bit disappointing. That’s not to say I wasn’t still able to consume twice my weight in candy, but the volume as well as variety was kind of a let-down. I always insist all the candy collected by my little goblins to be carefully inspected by me. In the process, I would deduct my duly earned tax from the enormous haul of goodies. This year, though, I was forced to buy extra candy for the neighbors’ costumed characters with the plan of saving the addictive leftovers for myself. Happily, my ingenious scheme proved quite successful.
As we leave Halloween behind and continue to move through the autumnal season, the grill becomes less and less of a draw as my cooking medium of choice. Now don’t get me wrong—the flavor profiles obtained through open-flame cooking are still my favorite way to enjoy items such as kalbi ribs, Argentinian-style marinated skirt steak and Caribbean coconut-infused pork tenderloin. I could go on and on, but the point is, the cooler temperatures tend to make indoors as the place to prepare my delectable chow.
Now, I’m no mathematician, but I do know that cool weather plus fall produce equals belly-warming chowders.
Chowders purportedly began as simple stews prepared on sailing ships, consisting of seafood and salt pork, which were thickened with hard tack. Today, we recognize two distinct types of chowders: cream-based and tomato-based. The cream-based varieties are associated with New England, where the frigid cold winters make these hearty soups a most welcome treat.
At the end of the day, do we in the 904 really care about New England? I should hope not! They can keep their stinking Patriots and just … well, you know what I mean. I’m ashamed to admit it, though, but I’m definitely smitten with their version of chowder.
So when the temps dipped into the 50s the other day, I began to assemble a NEFlorida version of this cold-weather delicacy. This Cheffed-Up version is not overly thick. You can always add a cornstarch slurry if you like it more viscous.
Chef Bill’s Mayport Shrimp & Corn Chowder
• 1 Tbsp. butter
• 1 onion, diced
• 2 celery ribs, diced
• 4 bacon slices, cubed
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 bouquet garni
• 6 ears of corn, shucked
• 1 lb. Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced 1/2 inch
• 40 oz. chicken broth
• 1 cup heavy cream
• Half-pound Mayport shrimp, peeled & deveined, cut in half lengthwise (butterflied)
• Salt & pepper to taste
1. Roast the corn in a 350˚ oven 20 minutes. Cool. Cut kernels from cobs.
2. Heat butter in a Dutch oven. Brown bacon on medium heat, remove to a paper towel. Sweat the onion until translucent; add celery and garlic and half the roasted corn. Sauté for several minutes. Add corn cobs. Season.
3. Add chicken broth and bouquet garni. Simmer 20 minutes. Add potatoes, simmer 10 minutes. Remove corn cobs, making sure to scrape the liquid back into the pan.
4. Put the remaining corn and heavy cream in a blender and purée.
5. Stir cream and corn into the soup. Check seasoning, simmer until potatoes are soft.
6. Sauté shrimp and use as garnish with the cooked bacon.
Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at email@example.com, for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!