I just spent an especially relaxing weekend at the Oregon coast in the company of my husband and our two kids. It was especially relaxing because we literally had nothing to do: no tv, no phones, no friends in tow. We like to call it “forced family fun time”. The kids fought us at first, but within minutes took to the icy cold water–my big toe just barely made it in–with their boogie boards. They splashed around, laughing and giggling, for what seemed like hours. Later we walked on the beach, poking the dried up jellyfish in our path, took a drive to Cape Disappointment (it surpassed expectations), and strolled around the town of Astoria enjoying a rare warm AND sunny day. All-in-all a lovely weekend.
As is often the case, I returned home from the coast with a load of crab and absolutely no plans for its use. Our “crab week 2011” started off pretty simply on Sunday night with a platter of salad rolls (the ones from my book) with spicy mango dipping sauce. Monday night I sautéed some bacon, jalapeños, and cherry tomatoes and tossed the makeshift sauce with brown rice penne, crab, and basil. That went over pretty well, but by Tuesday’s dinner the kids shut down my chowder plans and demanded we head out for Mexican food. Little did they know we’d be back to crab chowder on Wednesday!
I know soup isn’t the first thing you think about in summer, but I always make chowder at least once during corn season. And nothing makes me happier than combining corn and crab together for one delicious version. Technically mine isn’t a true chowder because it’s dairy free. Cream can feel so heavy in the summer! Instead, I pureed a portion of the soup and stirred it back in to the rest of the chowder to thicken it and add creaminess. You can definitely add a little cream or half-and-half if you prefer; just cut back on the water by about a cup and replace it with the cream.
My whole purpose in making an annual corn chowder is to take advantage of fresh summer corn. I accomplish this by buying super fresh ears–usually from the farmer’s market–and cutting the corn right from the cob before I toss it in the soup. To do this, hold an ear of corn by its tip and stand it on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice down close to the cob, removing the kernels. (You’ll have a few kernels flying about, but they mostly fall into a reasonably neat pile.) For extra flavor, turn your knife around to the dull side and scrape off any remaining kernels and juices from the cob. If you’re making the chowder in January you could definitely use defrosted frozen corn, but do give the fresh stuff a try when it’s at its peak. It tastes like summer in a bowl.