Thursday, November 19, 2009

Summer in a Pot: Guajillo Shrimp Chowder

PS: Don't eat the peppers.

When you're already as sick as I am of the cold and rainy London weather and it's only early November, you need something to flood you with warm, memories of summertime, both literally and figuratively, and I mean pronto.

I set upon making this autumnal deed happen for Matt and me a couple of weeks ago when I embarked upon a tireless search for a recipe to make something that sounded intuitively delicious but I'd never seen on a menu or actually even heard of: shrimp chowder.

Matt being a Northeastern man, and me being a total raw-bar pig / obsessed with shrimp, any excuse to eat shellfish or crustaceans in any shape or form is worth seizing on. But, it's too cold and un-summery to make my beloved Shrimp Boils - and yet, I wondered what I could do to bring that aestival favorite to my Autumnal table in an acceptably cozy form. Luckily, I am a bonafidelover of all chowders - New England, Manhattan, Rhode Island -- you name it, I'll eat it. A few hours, lots of researching, chopping, stewing and brewing later, this recipe was born. And yes, of course, it has a Mexican kick. (Really? Would you honestly expect anything less?)

Enjoy on a cold wish-it-was-still-summer-but-it-ain't-and-that-kinda-sucks kinda day. :)

* * *

Ode to the Guajillo Pepper
*with classical double-flute accompaniment*

My Chilitos, my Guajillos, loved and lauded in my heart,
loved and lauded by my taste buds, by my mind - ah, where to start?
a dried and smokey toasted chile, you're a meaty little heat-y,
I keep you stocked in my bodega for you taste good and you're pretty

Cooking you may seem too foreign to some gringos and their folk,
but I just remove your seeds and stem and leave your pretty self to soak.
When you're soft, hydrated, ready, I can take you to the knife.
Listo? Smell and taste but keep it steady! There's some heat, but nothing rife.
I can use you in a salsa for guizitos (that's a stew),
I can toast you for my chili, as good Texan folks would do.
I can chop you up and fry you with garlic, prawns and olive oil,
you work great for dinner, tapas, when I bake, fry, dip or boil.

Oh Guajillo, Oh chilito - you're a deep, rich red, I love.
How I crave your subtle flavors, I hold you in esteem above--
all other chiles (kinda). :D

* * *

Guajillo Shrimp Chowder
or Autumn's Shrimp Boil

Serves 6

how scrumdidliumptious is this picture? :)

This chowder can be as spicy or tame as you want it to be. Guajillo chiles give it flavor more than heat - that's where the chiles de arbol come in, so adjust those to your preference. Remove the peppers and bay leaves at serving time.

I find that putting the shrimp in at the very last minute and letting them cook with the heat of the soup is the best way to ensure succulent texture and avoid that nasty overcooked, dried out shrimp we have all had and lamented. Enjoy - I think this is a recipe I'll be making for years to come. :)

1 lb shrimp, raw, peeled (shells reserved) and deveined
1/4 lb bacon-chop or pancetta, chopped into squares
olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 small fennel bulb, sliced (fronds & tough exterior reserved)
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3 guajillo chiles, seeds & stem removed
2 chiles arbol (or 1 or none if you're a wuss)
3 large potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
2 cups corn kernels (from frozen or canned)
3 cups fish stock OR 3 cups shrimp stock (see below**)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp corn starch or flour
salt & freshly ground pepper
chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. Chop all your vegetables and heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large soup pot.

2. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat until browned and crispy (5 minutes or so), then remove from the pan and reserve on a plate.

3. Keep the same pot with bacon fat and bits on the stove. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and allow to heat. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, fennel and chiles and sautee until the onions and fennel are cooked but not browned.

4. Add the potatoes, corn, tomato paste, wine, cream and stock. The liquid should just cover the potatoes; if it doesn't, add a little bit more water. Cook on high heat for 8-10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

5. Meanwhile, mix the corn starch or flour in a ramekin with some water until completely dissolved. Once potatoes are done cooking, pour a small amount of the hot chowder broth into the ramekin so that the flour dissolves completely, then empty the ramenkin's contents into the chowder. Mix well and allow to simmer for a further 2-3 minutes or until soup has thickened.

6. If you are serving the chowder immediately, turn the heat off, add the shrimp and mix well. Cover and allow the shrimp to cook with the residual heat of the chowder for a good 10 minutes.

Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and some crusty bread.

**Quick Shrimp Stock:
Sautee 2 cloves of crushed garlic, the shrimp shells, and the fronds and exterior layer of the fennel in two tablespoons of olive oil until the shells are pink and aromatic. Add the wine and water (4 cups in this case) from the recipe above and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until reduced. Strain until only the broth is left and use for the chowder.
Follow Me on Pinterest


  1. Perfect timing - I just picked up a bag of these beauties and this chowder does indeed sound perfect for this time of year. I love the warm glow it gives the tummy, too bad my cheeks can''t get the same benefit.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Awesome ode! Lovin' your shrimp chowder, especially since temps here in MN have started to dip into the single digits . . . below zero. I need some heat! I'm really curious about Guajillo and arbol chiles - I'm still only at the chipotle and ancho stage. But there's so much more to explore!

  3. You should make a video of you dancing to the song. While mixing a bowl of the chowder and playing the flute... hahaha the picture in my head is great. :) Miss you ratta