Maine Shrimp Chowder
- 3 lb. very fresh Maine shrimp in their shells
- 2 oz smoked slab bacon, diced about 1/4 inch
- one large leek, white part only, rinsed and diced about 1/4 inch
- 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
- 3 cups of shrimp broth
- sea salt, fresh-milled black pepper, and cayenne
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup rich cream (preferably not ultra-pasteurized; it really does make difference)
- about 2 tablespoons snipped chives
- New England common crackers
For the chowder base
Shell the shrimp and reserve the heads and tail shells for the broth.
Poach bacon in simmering water for one minute, drain and reserve.
‘Try’ the bacon over moderate flame in a heavy non-reacting soup pot until some fat has been rendered and the bacon pieces begin to color. Add the diced leeks and potatoes, stir, and cover. Cook about five minutes over moderate-low flame without browning, stirring occasionally. Add the shrimp broth and simmer about eight minutes, or until the potato pieces are tender and crumble easily when pressed. Season with sea salt, a generous grating of the peppermill, and a pinch of cayenne. Keep chowder base warm.
To finish the chowder
Melt the butter over moderate flame in a heavy non-reacting skillet. When the foam subsides, increase the heat to high, add the shrimp meats, and sautée over high flame just until shrimp meats begin to ‘set’ and become opaque, about one minute. In a separate saucepan, heat the cream to scald. Pour the hot cream over the shrimps, swirling the pan to combine. Add the cream mixture to the hot chowder base, stirring gently. Off heat, cover the chowder and allow it to ripen for ten minutes in a warm place. Adjust the seasoning and serve in heated soup plates. Sprinkle with snipped fresh chives, and serve plenty of common crackers on the side.
For the shrimp broth:
Place the shrimp heads and tail shells in a non-reacting saucepan and add enough cold water to just cover the shells. (Don’t be concerned about any shrimp eggs that may be present. The broth won’t be affected.) Bring to a simmer over high flame, then reduce the flame to low and gently simmer the broth uncovered about five minutes, skimming off the foam as it rises. Strain through a colander lined with three layers of cheesecloth.
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Recipe courtesy of Chef Sam Hayward at Fore Street in Portland, Maine.