It’s been pretty dreary these last few days, with some fog and rain here and there, and a few bouts of sunshine now and then. So I’ve been looking for something to brighten up my day.
I had a corn and crab chowder a few weeks ago on a visit to Palm Springs, and thought about how I might make it my way. So I decided to punch up the color a bit and make a few minor changes.
You’ll love the sunny yellow color provided by the saffron, the chunky potatoes and sweet corn, and the bits of crab which pair well with everything.
While I know corn isn’t a winter food, it’s still easy enough to get some fresh corn. I prefer its flavor over frozen. But if you can only find frozen corn, that’s fine too.
Most chowders have celery, but I’ve omitted it here as it takes away from the corn and crab flavors.
You can make this soup with low fat or whole milk, but I prefer whole milk for its added richness. And if you really want to make it a filling soup, add a touch of cream at the finish.
For this soup, we’re making once again what’s called a roux. Roux is a mix of fat and flour, in this case butter, which is cooked gently and works as a thickening agent. You can cook roux a light stage, blonde, or darker, adding some flavor to your sauce. However, be aware that the longer and darker you cook it, the more it loses its thickening power. In the case of this soup, you want to just incorporate the butter and flour and there’s no need to cook in much color.
You never want to add just plain flour directly to a soup or sauce, or it’s going to clump up. (Except maybe Wondra flour, which is made expressly for this purpose and to avoid this problem). By coating the flour particles with fat you prevent them from sticking together and forming clumps.
And whenever working with a roux, you never want to add a hot liquid to a hot roux, or cold liquid to a cold roux, or you also risk serious clumping. So in this case, as in most cases, you’ll want to add cold stock and milk to the warm roux.
As it heats up, the flour will expand and you will see the liquid thicken up slightly or a lot, depending on how much flour is added. In the case of this soup, not a whole lot of thickening will take place.
You need to now bring the soup up to a gentle boil at a minimum to cook out the flour flavor.
Add the saffron once the soup is hot and let it cook a while. It takes time and heat for the saffron to release its color.
And if you have a few saffron threads left over, you can sprinkle them on top just as you serve or an extra spike of color.
- 1 yellow onion finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 pound red potatoes diced in 1/2" cubes
- 4 pound ears fresh corn or a 1bag frozen corn
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 pound fresh crab meat
- 10 strands saffron
- chopped chives or parsley for decoration
Melt butter in a large pot, add onions and cook gently until soft and transparent.
Meanwhile, if using fresh corn, strip the kernels from the cob using a chef's knife.
Add in potatoes and stir well. Add in fresh or frozen corn.
Add in flour and stir well, cook 1-2 minutes.
Add in chicken stock and milk and raise heat to moderate, bringing to a low simmer.
Cook until the potatoes and corn are tender.
Add a portion of crab into the bottom of each serving bowl and ladle the hot soup over it.
Garnish with parsley or chives.
I like to leave the crab out until the last minute, but you could also add it all in with the soup, giving the entire soup a more "crabby" flavor throughout.