Being from New England, I hold to the idea that chowders – whether seafood or corn – must be thick. Very thick.
But that's where my marriage to tradition ends. I love both seafood and corn chowders, and I see no reason why they can't be combined. I also think that coconut milk and other flavors often associated with Indian cuisines work well with both.
And so I decided to bring them all together in one pot. Rather than the more traditional cream, I used a can of lite coconut milk to add the creamy richness chowders need, as well as starchy russet potatoes for body.
Once the base is made, it's easy to add the seafood (I favored shrimp for their firm texture, strong flavor and easy prep, but use whatever seafood you prefer) and corn. While frozen kernels can be substituted, the flavor of fresh, barely cooked corn is wonderful (and worth the minor trouble).
Finally, a splash of hot sauce at the end brings it all together. What most people don't know about hot sauce is that in very small amounts it will heighten the other flavors of the dish without adding any real heat.
Curried corn and shrimp chowder
4 ears of corn
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
15-ounce can lite coconut milk
1 quart chicken broth
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound large raw shrimp, shells and tails removed
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Cut the kernels from the ears of corn. To do this, stand each ear on its wide end and use a serrated knife to saw down the length of the cob. Discard the cobs.
In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the curry powder and smoked paprika, then cook, stirring constantly, for another minute. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth and potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender and begin to crumble, about 15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a blender, in batches if necessary, and blend until mostly smooth. Return the mixture to the pot over medium heat.
When the chowder has returned to a simmer, add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp just turn pink and firm, about 10 minutes. Add the corn kernels and cook until the chowder is just heated through. Season with salt, pepper and a splash of hot sauce.