In the sleepy little town of Leland, Mississippi, deep in the Delta, chef Will Gault celebrates the best of seasonal local flavors at Vince’s, a stylishly refurbished old restaurant near a small blues museum in the business district. While I was visiting, he served this full-flavored chowder, using Lauren Farms fresh water prawns raised in former catfish ponds nearby. He shared the recipe, which I adapted using shrimp in place of the harder-to-come-by prawns—which have a milder flavor but very similar texture to shrimp. It makes a great casual company dish that needs only a salad and crusty bread to complete the meal.
Spicy Corn Chowder:
2 tablespoons butter
4 slices bacon, diced
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
3 cups sweet corn kernels (roast ears in husks in a 350-degree oven 30 minutes or until soft, then cut kernels from cobs)
2 tablespoons chopped thyme leaves
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups shrimp stock (made by simmering shells in water at least 10-15 minutes to extract flavor) or clam juice
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Chili and lime shrimp:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and cut in pieces, if large
3 tablespoons Asian chili paste or Srichicha sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons olive oil
Micro greens, or extra sprigs of cilantro and thyme for garnish
1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; add the bacon and fry until crisp and all the fat is rendered. Remove bacon from the pan and save for garnish. Add onion, jalapenos, garlic, potatoes, red bell peppers, and corn to the pan and sauté until the onions and bell peppers are softened. Add the thyme and cilantro, and season to taste. Add milk, heavy cream, shrimp stock, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are softened.
2. With slotted spoon, transfer half of the softened vegetables to a food processor. Puree and add back to the saucepan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes longer or until the chowder starts to thicken. While chowder is simmering, marinate shrimp in chili paste and lime juice for 15-30 minutes. In a separate sauté pan, heat olive oil just under smoking point. Add shrimp to pan and sauté over medium high heat 2 minutes, or until firm.
3. To serve: Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with some of the shrimp, reserved bacon, and micro greens or herb sprigs.
Makes 12 servings.