Friday, March 25, 2011

Daddy Can Cook: Creole Smoked Sausage and Corn Chowder

I love to cook.  And one of my favorite things about cooking is trying out new recipes.  I get about six or seven recipes in my e-mail every day and keep about one or two a week.  When browsing one of my favorite websites,, I came across this recipe.  I found it intriguing, and have been looking for an opportunity to prepare it for some time now.

I always make a point of reading the comments that go with a recipe that I am going to prepare.  I find that if a recipe modification is mentioned more than a handful of times it is usually a good idea to make that modification yourself.  Fans of the Harry Potter series may recognize this as what I like to call the "Half Blood Prince" effect.

On the AllRecipes site they call this soup a "New Orleans Corn Bisque with Smoked Sausage".  But I disagree with that designation on two points.  First, a bisque is a thick soup made from strained or pureed vegetables or seafood.  A chowder, on the other hand, is a soup that is thickened with flour, usually cream or milk based.  Traditionally a chowder uses crushed ship's biscuit as a thickener, but I've always made it a point not to eat food that would otherwise outlive me, it just seems disrespectful.  Back to the point, this is a chowder and not a bisque as the original recipe claims.  Second I have no idea how the original recipe can claim "New Orleans".  I don't claim any Creole or Cajun ancestry, but neither can this chowder.

I got the opportunity to make this on Wednesday when I volunteered to bring in a dish to the weekly soup dinner our church hosts prior to each Lenten service.  I prepared it as a triple batch, but I'll translate it here to make 8 1-cup servings.

Creole Smoked Sausage and Corn Chowder

1 package (16 oz.) ring-style smoked sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices. I cut mine into little half moons.
1 medium onion, chopped.
1/4 cup butter. You can use margarine, if you can live with the shame.
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. Creole Seasoning. I don't plug specific products, but do yourself a favor and buy Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning.  Trust me.
1 can (14.75 oz) whole kernel corn.
4 cups milk
2 cups cubed potato (1/2 inch chunks). If you have red potatoes, wash them well and leave the skin on, otherwise peel them.

Do all your cutting and chopping beforehand, it will save you time and make the actual cooking so much easier.  I hate the sausage ends that are mostly casing anyway, so I used them to reward my chef's assistant for being such a pretty girl.
Yes you are. YES YOU ARE!
Melt your butter over medium heat and add the onions.  While the onions are cooking, brown up the smoked sausage in a separate pan. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they become tender and transparent.  Mix together your flour and Creole seasoning and pour over the onions.  At this point you're making a roux with the flour and butter which will be the thickening agent for your chowder.  This will get thick and pasty and you need to let it cook for a few minutes while stirring it constantly.  Then you add the milk.  At first the flour/butter mixture will form clumps but if you keep stirring it will smooth out and become a thick and creamy base for your chowder.  Constantly stir the mixture until it is boiling.  Pro Tip: milk does not boil like water, if it does that means you're scorching the hell out of your soup.  Once your milk starts steaming and becomes frothy at the top, it is boiling. Add your sausage, corn, and potatoes to the boiling chowder base and keep stirring as it returns to a boil.  Lower the heat and add Creole seasoning to taste.  Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for 35 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Serve with chopped parsley and grated cheddar garnish. (I didn't do this, but I am usually very pro-cheese and pro-herb)

That is what I did and it made a pretty great soup.  I cannot vouch for it's Creole authenticity, but it is tasty either way.  When I cook this again (and I definitely plan to) here is what I will do differently:

Prepare a double batch.  It is absolutely a "better the next day" dish.

Use Andouille sausage. Adds another level of Creole authenticity, plus it is extra delicious.

Use half the amount of sausage and replace it with equal weight of peeled and de-veined shrimp. O hell yeah.

Use skim milk.  The roux will thicken it either way, and with the butter and sausage you don't really need the extra fat.

Add half again as many potatoes.  The potatoes do a great job absorbing the flavors and always bring a smile to these Irish eyes.

So that's about it.  If you do try this dish please leave a comment and let me know how it worked out, or let me know if you tried any successful recipe modifications.  Happy Cooking!

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