November 7, 2012

Spicy Shrimp Chowdah

After a long absence it is time to dust off the pots and pans, shake off the cobwebs and get back to making some tasty food!  The past 6 months have been a time of transition for me, moving from Astoria, OR back to Missoula, MT and settling back into the mountains.  It was a fun summer, filled with camping, swimming, traveling, music and whatever else we could pack into the sunny days.  Everything it seemed except cooking.  But now I am back with one of the best dishes I have eaten in a very long time - Spicy Shrimp Chowdah.

As the days are getting shorter and the mercury dropping, I felt that it was the right time to jump into the internet and find a new go-to chowder for winter 2012.  I knew I wanted to stay away from a traditional clam chowder, and I already had a potato chowder and a mushroom chowder, so what other interesting variant could I do?  I had been craving shrimp lately and, although I was hesitant about a shrimp chowder, decided to see what was out there.  I was in luck on the third link I clicked on and found a Low Fat Shrimp Chowder on the Taste of Home website.  I liked the recipe right off the bat because of the simple ingredients and the fact that it is quick to make.  Not having a slow cooker or a dutch oven (I know, I know) makes finding hearty wintery recipes a little more difficult, so when I do find one, I jump all over it.

I made myself up a list of the ingredients I needed to grab on the way home and then spent my afternoon dreaming of how good this was going to taste while the temperature outside started to drop.  Every so often during the day I would pull out the page I had the recipe written on and jot down a note or two, or cross something out, so by the end of the day, the page looked like I had been using it for years.  By the time 5:00 rolled around I was stahhving and ready to get cooking!  

Once home with all my goodies I set to work chopping veggies and measuring out broth and milk and flour.  I seemed to be flying through everything and I started to get worried that maybe I was missing a step, but no, the recipe really is just fast!  I have to admit that I had a blast smashing the potatoes and veggies half-way through cooking.  I felt some of my frustrations evaporate as the potatoes squashed and the bell pepper smoosh.  I didn't run into any snags until it was time to prep the shrimp.  Somehow, I had gotten 3 different sized shrimp in my bag from the butcher at Safeway!  I got around the issue by chopping the large and jumbo shrimp into chunks and leaving the medium sized shrimp intact.  The end result was actually very nice, the whole shrimp provided a fantastic visual, while the chunks filled out the soup with bite sized pieces.  Next time I make this chowder, I will get 2 sizes to create this effect.

The only other issue I ran across was the smell, or lack there of while cooking.  I don't know what I was expecting smell-wise, but it seemed like this chowder had no distinct smell to enjoy while in the kitchen.  While the veggies were simmering, there was a pleasant odor of simmering veggies, but that was about it until the very end while the flavors were melding together over low heat.  The end result produced a very comforting smell that seemed to wrap everything up in a fuzzy blanket.

Finally it was time to eat.  The chowder was perfect with a little bit of a kick without being overwhelming.  It had the right balance of flavors and didn't have too much or too little shrimp in it.  I was on cloud nine with each spoon-full.  Suddenly I was in a warm, safe bubble where nothing bad could get in and Fred Astaire "Cheek to Cheek" playing on a loop.

SPICY SHRIMP CHOWDAH (makes about 4 cups)
  • 1/2-3/4 lb red potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1-1/4 c reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 c red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 c yellow onion, chopped
  • 3/4 c 1% milk (or fat free)
  • 1/8 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c fat free evaporated milk
  • 3/4 lb uncooked medium shrimp (can do 1/2 lb med and 1/4 lb large), peeled and deveined and large shrimp cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbl minced parsley
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Dash of garlic powder
  1. In 2 or 3 qt saucepan, bring the potatoes, broth, celery, onions and bell pepper to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.
  2. Stir in milk and gently mash the veggies, leaving some chunks of potato.
  3. Combine flour and evaporated milk until smooth; gradually stir into potato mixture.  Return to a boil and stir until thickened (about 2 min)
  4. Stir in remaining ingredients and return to a boil.  Cook, stirring, until shrimp are pink and done (about 3 min).
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Bon Appetite! 

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