Let me start by saying, I love Ree, The Pioneer Woman. She’s witty, warm, a fantastic writer and her recipes are incredible. I kind of want to be her friend (and you should too).
So it’s no surprise that last Friday afternoon, I was drooling on my computer whist perusing her Corn and Cheese Chowder. As delectable as it looked, with 2 cups of half and half, 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 cups of cheese, I thought maybe I could make it a wee bit lighter….I mean I need my pants to fit….unless Ree wants to make me new ones? Something tells me she would. (Love PW).
So I did what I do best, I shifted some things around, added some kale, some shrimp and a bunch of other fun things to make this smokey, slightly spicy, rich, creamy (but not too fattening) soul-warming, adjective-filled, Corn Chowder with Grilled Shrimp.
I think PW would be proud.
In honor of Ree, let’s do the step-by-step thing:
The ingredient team: Sea Salt, Argentinian Red Shrimp, Mimic Creme, Parmesan Cheese, Thick-Sliced Bacon (you’re welcome), Vegetable Broth, White Onion, Red Pepper, Sweet Corn, Goat Cheese and Green Onions (I didn’t use the butter after all and forgot to show the kale and the whole wheat flour I used #photofail)
And we start the chowder party:
In a deep soup pot, over medium heat, saute bacon until starting to crisp, add onions and peppers and cook until soft. Little trick? Instead of cooking the vegetables first in butter, cook the bacon first and allow the vegetables to cook in that grease, and save yourself the butter calories (so you can eat more cookies, see? Smart).
Add corn and stir to combine. I used canned corn but if you have fresh, that would be amazing. I love the pop and crunch the corn adds. Sprinkle in whole wheat flour; this will help thicken it all up. You can use AP flour if you want; but I typically use WW pastry flour for all my cooking/baking. It’s just how I roll.
Add the vegetable broth here. Be sure to scrape up all the bits from the bottom and stir briskly, we want our bits blended! (what?)
Next, add this love, MimicCreme (which up until about 4 seconds ago when I looked up the link, I was calling “Mimi Cream” like someone named Mimi’s was churning milk into cream. Sheesh, and you’re listening to me?). ANYWAY, I was looking for a replacement for the (delicious) half and half and came across this item at my Whole Foods. I really like that its intended as a cream alternative for cooking so there’s no curdling (plus its nut-based, rather than soy-based, which I prefer). Can’t find this magical elixir? You can use milk or non-dairy milk (you may want to experiment with adding non-dairy milk to a hot liquid before adding to a whole pot of soup to check for curdling).
Pour in two cups of this awesomeness. Once warmed through, add in goat cheese and stir until thoroughly blended (sorry no photo – can you imagine me adding goat cheese? Nice). I used herbed goat cheese, but plain or black pepper would be just as fabulous. Goat cheese is great here because it adds huge flavor but is lower in fat and calories than hard cheese (Making you smarter).
Decide that your soup is looking a little one-color; and throw in a handful of kale, because kale makes everything better (hence the omission from the original ingredient photo – its cooking improv over here!)
Add blurry green onions too. Allow all this to cook together for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, you got shrimp to saute.
I used the Argentinian Red Shrimp from Trader Joe’s – a salesperson told me once they tasted like lobster. Um, sold. I am now obsessed. If you can find these; BUY THEM, you will not be sorry. Otherwise, any old shrimp will do. In a little cooking spray cook shrimp until opaque, sprinkle with sea salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper or sprinkle in some Cajun seasoning. By now, your soup should be thickened up to a perfectly creamy texture and ready to be plated with the shrimp.
Feel free to be adorable and create a Fall mosaic with individual gourds and a white pumpkin soup tureen. What’s in that little pot of adorableness?
Oh haaayyyy. Yes, that’s our thick, creamy, veggie (and bacon) filled Corn Chowder with a Cajun Shrimp garnish.
Friends, I cannot TELL you how incredibly delicious this is. Just the perfect hint of spicy heat, crunch from the vegetables, and velvety, creamy broth make this amazing. Make this for your loved ones, make this for yourself, make this for the mailman. PW would want you to.
Here’s the straight-up recipe:
Lightened Up Corn Chowder with Shrimp
Servings: 8-10, 1-cup servings
Inspired by the fabulous Pioneer Woman
3 slices center-cut bacon, diced
1 large white onion, peeled and diced
1 large red pepper, de-seeded and diced
1 (15) oz can of unsalted corn (or 2 c. fresh off the cob)
3 tbs. whole wheat flour
3 c. Vegetable broth
2 c. Mimic Creme “Cream” unsweetened (or milk or non-dairy substitute)
8 oz goat cheese (plain, black pepper or herbed), crumbled
1 c. fresh kale (optional)
1/3c. green onions, chopped (green and white parts)
1 lb raw or frozen shrimp, thawed (peeled and de-veined), enough to serve two or three in each serving of soup.
Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Cajun Seasoning (or Cayenne Pepper)
Parmesan Cheese and Green onions for serving
Over medium heat, cook bacon in a deep soup pot. Cook until bacon is just starting to crisp, about 4-5 minutes. To the pot, add the diced onions and pepper. Saute together for about 2-3 minutes until soft; but not browned. Add corn, stir to combine. Sprinkle with WW flour until vegetables are coated). Add broth and stir thoroughly, be sure to scrape up all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot and ensure that the flour is blended. Allow to cook uncovered about 10 minutes to thicken up. While soup is hot (but not boiling) slowly add MimiCreme, stirring as you go. Once MimiCreme is warmed though, add goat cheese and whisk in completely. Once soup is creamy and fabulous looking, add kale and green onions (I like to add it here so they stay bright green). Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste here and season with either sea salt and cayenne pepper or a few healthy shakes of Cajun Seasoning (my preference). To serve, add 2-3 shrimp of the cooked shrimp (recipe below) to the center of the serving. Provide Parmesan cheese and extra green onions for garnish. Makes 8-10, 1-cup servings (approximately).
While soup is in the last 15 minutes of cooking. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add a bit of cooking spray and add shrimp. Cook on one side for about 2-3 minutes, and then flip, adding a bit of salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper or just a few shakes of Cajun Seasoning. Cook until shrimp is opaque. Serve as garnish in each cup of soup. Makes 1lb cooked shrimp.
For a decadent twist (but not really, thanks MimicCreme!), replace the corn with 2 c. sliced button mushrooms and replace the Cajun/cayenne with 1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, while soup is bubbly, add cous cous for a fast and Creamy Mushroom Shrimp Risotto-ish entrée. Adding pasta or cous cous when you re-heat the soup is also a great way to make it a grain-based meal.
Um, if you couldn’t tell, I really liked this recipe. XO.