Sunday, March 16, 2008
Fresh, sweet corn, tender scallops, spicy roasted poblano chili...mmm mmm good. Corn chowder and seafood is a flawless pairing—it's light but still sufficient for a cool spring evening. You may recall that I am a big fan of chowders, and as delicious as the thick and rich ones are, I prefer the classic chowder flavors with a less-dense body. It's a healthier way to enjoy a favorite recipe, plus since spring is upon us, it just seems more appropriate.
Spicy Corn & Scallop Chowder
serves 4 as a first-course, or 2 as a main, with leftovers
For creaminess, I used 1/4 cup skim milk and 1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half. You could substitute whole milk, 2% milk, or a combination of skim milk and cream for similar results.
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices pancetta or lean bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
½ cup dry white wine
3 cobs fresh corn, kernels removed and cobs reserved
1 roasted poblano pepper, chopped (method follows)
2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
1 cup chicken stock
1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
½ pound bay scallops
¼ cup skim milk, divided
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup fat-free half-and-half
Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro
In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add pancetta or bacon and cook until meat is crisp and fat has rendered. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon fat (or leave it alone if there’s about that much in the pan). Add onions and garlic, season with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and stir. Cook until onions are beginning to soften and garlic is very fragrant. Add smoked paprika, if using, and stir to combine. Add wine and using a wooden spoon, scrape any bits from the bottom of the pot. Simmer 1 minute.
Add corn, cobs, poblano, clam juice, stock, and potatoes, and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Remove cobs and discard, then add scallops. Combine 1 tablespoon milk with cornstarch to make a slurry. Add half-and-half, slurry, and remaining milk, and simmer until scallops are fully cooked and chowder is lightly thickened. Top each bowl with reserved pancetta or bacon, and garnish with cilantro, if desired.
Roasted poblano: situate oven rack to highest position and preheat broiler. Lightly rub poblano with olive or vegetable oil. Line a small baking sheet with foil, place pepper on prepared baking sheet and place under broiler. Broil pepper until skin is beginning to char, about 5 minutes. Flip pepper, and broil about 5 minutes more, or until it is uniformly soft and skin is mostly brown and black. Remove pepper from oven, place in a paper bag (or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap). Set aside for 8-10 minutes, then remove stem from pepper, and peel away skin (it should come off easily). Cut pepper in half, remove seeds, and roughly chop.