Although the famous quote “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” is usually mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain, it remains true that San Francisco is often bone-chillingly cold in the summer. I used to fight the weather here in July and August, but I’ve made peace with the grey and the chill, and with the huge, menacing wall of fog that creeps over the city most evenings, obscuring buildings and hills and landmarks.
And if summer hands me a ton of gorgeous, beautiful, fleeting produce along with windy, cool days, then soup is undoubtedly the answer. And what’s better than a summery chowder that takes a little of its inspiration from a Thai curry: laden with the newest potatoes of the season, sweet corn, shrimp and a warm, coconut-rich broth with a hint of green curry? I know that San Francisco isn’t the only place with chilly evenings — make this for your mountain holidays, beach bonfires and coastal escapades.
Summer Shrimp and Corn Chowder
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, sliced crosswise
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer stalk removed, sliced into two inch pieces
2 inch knob of ginger, sliced into rounds
32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce (adjust according to taste)
2 to 3 tablespoons green curry paste (adjust according to taste)
3/4 pound small red potatoes, diced
1.5 pounds wild raw shrimp
2 large ears corn, kernels removed (or use 2 cups frozen corn)
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced for garnish
Cilantro, for garnish
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced, optional
In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium low. Add the shallots and stir regularly until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lemongrass and ginger and cook until fragrant, stirring, another 2 minutes or so. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, fish sauce and curry paste. You will probably need to mash the curry paste along the side of the pot to dissolve it.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, add the potatoes and cover. When the potatoes are cooked but still firm, about 10 minutes, add the shrimp. Cover and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in fresh corn kernels and remove from heat. Strain ginger and lemongrass from the broth.
To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with green onions, cilantro and serrano chile slices if desired.
All photos by Kimberley Hasselbrink.