Jim is not a "soup for dinner" kind of guy, so a thumbs up from him tells you this is really really good. This soup is thick, filling and topped with spicy shrimp, what is not to love? This combination of succulent shrimp and sweet corn is hard to resist. Bacon provides our chowder with a meaty backbone, while a bit of flour gives it body.
6 Strips of bacon
1 tablespoon bacon grease
1 tablespoon olive oil (I like California Olive Ranch evoo)
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 Anaheim chile, roasted, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups chicken stock (I like to mix Better than Bouillon with water or homemade)
2 cups milk
3-4 medium Yukon gold potatoes
Kosher salt and pepper
1 can corn, drained
Frozen shrimp (The number will depend on how big they are and your personal preference, I aim for 4-6 per bowl)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Spicy Shrimp Seasoning
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Crisp bacon the easy way
Oven fried bacon was a revelation for me. It comes out perfectly crisp and evenly cooked with no hassle. I prefer to set a wire cooling rack inside a sheet pan and lay the bacon strips side by side to bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Sometimes I flip the bacon halfway through. Once cooked, you still need to transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain off a little fat. Reserve a tablespoon of the bacon grease that dripped into the sheet pan.
While bacon crisps in the oven, chop the onion, carrot, and celery, set aside together.
To roast the chile and bell pepper, I like to set them over the gas flame on my stove, turning with tongs until the outside is thoroughly charred. These can both go into a zip top bag together to steam on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, wipe the blackened skin off with a paper towel. Slice open and discard seeds and stem. Give these both a rough chop and set aside.
Scrub the potatoes and pierce in several places with a fork. Microwave on high power until tender, turning over once, about eight minutes. Chop coarsely with a knife, set aside.
In a large saute pan or Dutch oven add one tablespoon of reserved bacon grease plus one tablespoon of olive oil, heat over medium-high heat. Add the chopped carrot, celery and onion and saute until onion is soft and translucent 5-8 minutes.
Add the chile, bell pepper, and fresh thyme and stir to combine. You could strip the leaves off the thyme, but I usually throw the herb in altogether and fish it out before I serve.
Sprinkle veggies with flour and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add chicken stock while scraping the bottom of the pan. The sauce will begin to thicken. Add milk and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add chopped potatoes and use a potato masher to break up the pieces to your desired level of "chunkiness." Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Drain the can of corn and add to soup. Taste for seasoning, then cover and simmer on low while you cook the shrimp.
Mix spicy seasoning in a small bowl and sprinkle on top of peeled and deveined shrimp.
In a small skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Saute shrimp until opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and cover to keep warm.
Ladle chowder into deep bowls and top with cheese, shrimp, crumbled bacon and chopped chives.