Corn and shrimp soups colorful, simple, savory

Published in the Asbury Park Press 9/29/04
By TOMMY C. SIMMONS
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Corn and shrimp soup probably evolved from the fresh vegetable stews cooked in a skillet that were prepared in many Southern kitchens.

The stews, which were basically pan-sauteed corn, cut directly off the cob into the skillet to capture the juice or milk of the corn, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and sometimes okra, were quick and inexpensive since the ingredients came right out of the garden.

Cooks liked making the simple and budget-friendly skillet stews, and families apparently liked the taste of these fresh-from-the-garden vegetable dishes, too.

Skillet stews varied according to region. In Mississippi and Alabama, the corn mixture was often seasoned with a bit of rendered salt pork, according to Damon Lee Fowler’s "Classical Southern Cooking."

In southern Louisiana, the skillet stew, which was known as maque choux, was usually prepared meatless, but — and this is pure speculation — what if a skilled hand at the stove on a whim stirred a few shrimp into the corn and tomato stew one day? Would that family have enjoyed the very first corn-and-shrimp combination?

Today, new cooks will find recipes for corn and shrimp soup that make stewlike soups. These soups are often thickened with the addition of potatoes as well as the usual corn, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers.

There are also recipes for broth-based soups. More often than not, the broth is flavored with canned chicken broth or a chicken stock. And, returning to the origins of the soup with its characteristic fresh corn milkiness, some corn and shrimp soup recipes have added creamed corn, milk or cream to the ingredients.

Because corn and shrimp soup started out simple, it’s best not to over-engineer its preparation. Let the ingredients impart their unique flavors.

This version of the soup can be the meal itself, especially on a cold night. The recipe is adapted from "A Trim & Terrific Louisiana Kitchen" by Holly Berkowitz Clegg.

CORN AND SHRIMP SOUP
1 red onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

16-ounce bag frozen sweet corn

10-ounce can chopped tomatoes and green chilies (use the milder variety)

6-ounce can tomato paste

2 pounds shrimp, peeled

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

1 teaspoon sugar, optional

2 cups reduced-fat chicken broth (1 1/2 of the 14-ounce cans)

2 cups water

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Coat a large pot with nonstick cooking spray and saute onion, celery, green pepper and garlic until tender. Add corn, tomatoes and green chilies, tomato paste, shrimp and seasonings. Add chicken broth and bring to boil, lower heat and cook for 1 hour, adding water as needed to keep the consistency soupy. Add green onions, simmer for 15 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

© copyright 2004 The Associated Press

Original Link: http://www.app.com/app/story/0,21625,1064406,00.html