A Recipe for a Sweet, Short Season: Maine Shrimp
The Maine shrimp season has opened at last, but it promises to be extra short this year. So hurry to your local fish market for these tiny, sweet delicacies and give Maine Shrimp, Haddock and Jerusalem Artichoke Winter Chowder, from Kathy Gunst's Notes From a Maine Kitchen, a try. And if you happen to be in New York City on January 18, stop by the Beard House,167 West 12th Street, at noon for Gunst's talk about Notes from a Maine Kitchen, her collection of essays and seasonal recipes for each month of the year. Call 212-627-2308 to reserve a seat.
Maine Shrimp, Haddock, and Jerusalem Artichoke Winter Chowder
Jerusalem artichokes give this Maine shrimp-based chowder a great crunchy texture and sweet flavor. The chowder can be made a few hours (or a day) ahead of time and simply reheated over low heat until bubbling hot. This chowder is a great platform for showing off the shrimp’s sweet, fresh winter flavor. Serves 4.
3 strips bacon, optional
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried and crumbled
1 pound potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes, Yukon Gold works well
½ pound Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1½ cups low-fat milk
1 cup cream
1 pound haddock, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 to 1½ tablespoons flour
⅓ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pound peeled whole Maine shrimp
In a large soup pot, cook the bacon until crisp on both sides; drain on paper towels. Crumble the bacon into small pieces and set aside. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease.
Add the oil to the bacon grease (if you choose not to add bacon, work with about 1½ tablespoons olive oil instead). Add the onion to the hot oil and cook, stirring frequently, over low heat for about 8 minutes, or until the onions are soft and just beginning to turn color. Add the salt, pepper, and half the thyme, and stir well. Add the potatoes and artichokes and cook, stirring, for a minute to coat the potatoes and artichokes thoroughly with the spices and onions.
Meanwhile heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan over moderate heat until just simmering.
Add the haddock to the pot with the onions and potatoes and stir well. Sprinkle on the flour and stir gently to coat all the ingredients. Let cook about 2 minutes. Add half the crumbled bacon (if using), the remaining thyme, and then the warm milk and cream. Raise the heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Once the chowder simmers, reduce the heat to low, add half the parsley and the cayenne. Cover and let cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the shrimp and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they firm up. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt, pepper, and cayenne if needed.
Serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley and some of the remaining bacon on top.
You need one tablespoon of flour as a thickener, but if you prefer a thinner chowder, only add this amount.
If you want a thicker, more stew-like soup, add 1½ tablespoons flour.
You’ll need 2½ cups dairy — for a lighter chowder add all milk and for a richer one add the cream.
You can play with the proportions of milk and cream depending on how rich you like it.