Corn and Fennel Chowder with Crawfish Salad
July 02, 2009

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CornFennelChowder Asked to bring a soup dish to a dinner party, I decided to take a play from an old playbook and give it a new twist.  Seven years ago this week I made my first corn chowder right here on this blog.  I was so proud!  It was a good recipe: a cold, pureed corn chowder with sun-dried tomatoes.  It went through a lot of incarnations over the next couple of years, becoming a cold lemon-driven soup, then a spicy unpureed crab chowder with whole kernels.  Then I dropped it altogether.  I haven't made it in nearly five years.

Lately, though, I've been obsessed with the flavors of corn and fennel.  I've been using fennel as a bulbiferous replacement for onions, since Rebecca is mildly allergic to the latter.  And although a lot of people don't like licorice per se, anise is a fantastic accent flavor and can be the X factor in many great foods (for example, my beloved Sazerac).  

For instance, I've been making a Corn and Fennel Salad to go along with BBQ that people seem to like that goes like this:

Corn and Fennel Salad

Dice the soft white parts of two medium-sized fennel bulbs, reserving the rest.  Saute them in olive oil until they soften and begin to luster.  Add the kernels from five or six ears of corn.  Continue sauteing until the corn just begins to cook through.  (You don't want soft corn kernels here; the corn should still be slightly crunchy.)  Pull the fennel fronds off of the stems and dice them, along with the leaves from a stick of fresh tarragon.  Mix these in.

Take a package of grape tomatoes (or any kind of very small tomato) and cut each in half, adding them to the salad.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Finally, stir through a couple of tablespoons of vinaigrette -- just enough so that if you think hard you can barely taste it on each bite.

This is a very versatile side.  Sometimes I serve it under fish fillets, and it could go equally well in a phyllo cup with shellfish or stuffed inside of a flattened, rolled chicken breast.

The other thing that's changed since I last made the soup is that I finally splurged and bought my beloved Vita-Mix.  The chowders that I used to make years ago had some texture because the blender that I was using couldn't break down all of the hulls on every kernel of corn.  While this wasn't a bad thing necessarily, I was still very interested in what the soup would be like coming out of the Vita-Mix.

I made with soup in the fashion of the original recipe with the following changes:
  • I removed the sun-dried tomatoes and its associated oil, the cumin, and the turmeric.
  • I supplemented the creme fraiche with buttermilk. 
  • I deglazed with a bit of Pernod. 
  • I used two large fennel bulbs with their fronds, cooked as per the salad recipe above.   
  • I doubled the amount of lemon zest.  
The crawfish salad was a mixture of crawfish, small cooked shrimp, creme fraiche, lemon juice, celery, english cucumber, salt, pepper, and tabasco.

The result drew raves at the dinner party!  The spiciness of the crawfish salad worked well against the creamy backdrop of the soup.

I'll leave you with one final tip:  If you're making a cold soup, you'll have to add more salt and other spices than you would ordinarily, as the temperature inhibits your tongue's ability to percieve these things.  So don't balance it when it's hot, chill, and then serve.  Be sure to taste it again after it's chilled and balance it again!

July 2, 2009 | Permalink


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great read. i must try this at home sometime. thanks.

Posted by: Indu at Nov 11, 2009 6:31:00 AM

Greatest soup I've ever seen. Crawfish? Nom nom.

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This soup looks delicious! Thanks for sharing this.

Posted by: Mesothelioma at Dec 23, 2009 12:24:00 PM

Crawfish salad is very healthy

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its my favorite food.

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