We're packed for our beachside paradise. We didn't pack slacks, proper shoes, jackets, or dress shirts. We have two suitcases full of tee shirts, shorts, flip flops, and swim trunks. We plan to do nothing. Nothing, but lie in the sun, read, swim, drink, eat, and relax.
Oh, we also have a large wicker basket filled with disposable cooking utensils, spices, fleur de sel, kosher salt, hickory smoked salt, Himalayan salt, Australian red sea salt, black sesame seeds, Old Bay, cracked black pepper, cracked green pepper, olive oil, capers, anchovies, sherry vinegar, polenta, grits, pasta, arborio rice, and flour. Aside from a couple of beachside restaurants that we can reach strolling ankle deep in the lapping tides, two-fisted with cups of wine and flashlights, we plan to grill our meals most nights while we're there. Peaceful. No worries. No traffic. No waiting.
Just the crystal clear teal blue water.....and us.
Preparing for our trip was an adventure. I wanted to clean out the refrigerator and pantry before we left. It's the classic what-my-parents-always-did-kind-of-thing to do. Leave a clean kitchen to return to a clean kitchen. A bit neurotic, yet sensible. I made it a game, like those shows on television that force people to use mystery baskets, secret ingredients, and time challenges to prepare a decent meal. I used what I had on hand. Meal by meal, I've emptied the cupboards, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. My dad would've been very proud.
The final challenge was the easiest. I simply used everything that was left for a hearty chowder. It was the perfect catch-all remedy. Chowder. Specifically, shrimp and corn chowder.
I had four ears of Peaches & Cream corn that were incredibly fresh. I shucked them on the back deck to avoid carpeting the kitchen floor with wispy corn silk. After shucking the corn, I stripped the kernels, used the back of the knife to milk the cob, and set it aside.
I pulled wild caught peeled and deveined Mobile Gulf shrimp from the freezer to thaw. (a happily recieved gift from my boss) While the shrimp thawed under running water, I diced red bell peppers, onions, carrots, celery, and baby new potatoes.
Mise en place. Time to play. I julienned 1/2 red bell pepper, snipped a few chives, and minced fresh thyme. To gild the lily, I roasted precious prosciutto strips until they caramelized into luscious salty sweet pork brittle.
Thankfully, it was time for several glasses of wine. Michael and I had to catch up on our individual days spent apart from each other. Doesn't everyone?
I snuck into the kitchen to start the chowder base. After that, it went pretty fast.
I sauteed the onions, red bell peppers, celery, and carrots with fresh thyme, salt, and pepper until they softened before deglazing the pan with my glass of wine, letting the wine reduce by half before adding 1/4 cup clam juice and two cups of chicken stock. I brought the chowder base to a boil, reduced it a simmer, refilled my wine glass, dropped the potatoes into the simmering stock, clamped on a lid, and rejoined Michael in the parlor.
When the potatoes were tender, I added 2 cups of heavy cream, allowing it to reduce and thicken to the perfect consistency. When the creamy chowder could coat the back of a spoon, I tumbled the fresh corn and shrimp into the velvety bath to steep for 3 minutes.
I ladled the shrimp and corn chowder into deep bowls, twirled julienned red bell peppers into the chowder, and showered it with fresh snipped chives. For crunch and saltiness, I crumbled crackling prosciutto crisps over the silken cream.
My. My. My.
The chowder was ridiculously rich from the heavy cream. A given. Yet, the sweet corn and tender shrimp cut through the richness with soft bursts of wet freshness. Cleansing. Fresh. The creaminess was shattered with each bite of crispy prosciutto. They were the ultimate salty croutons. Crunchy pig. Briny shrimp. Sweet corn. Heavy cream.