Hot Soup for a Cold Day


Some families have the tradition of eating certain foods at certain times. For New Years Day, southerners engage in the tradition of Hoppin’ John, a delicious meal of rice, black eyed peas, and smoked sausage. Me? For me, there is no special tradition on this day, but I have made Hoppin’ John once or twice. Sometimes, my friend Karen has given Hoppin’ John to me and my mom. Once, the Hoppin’ John came in the form of soup and I contend my mom intentionally hid it from me. But that is a story for another day. This is about Southern Shrimp Chowder (from The Complete Book of Soups and Stews by Bernard Clayton). This chowder is thick, carries a bit of heat, and is quick to make. If you find yourself at home because of a blizzard or at a party watching football with friends, make this soup and share some with a friend. Find the recipe here.

I call it the AARP chowder for no reason other than I think

Begin with Bacon. Every soup should begin with bacon.
Begin with Bacon. Every soup should begin with bacon.

the recipe came to me via Nancy and Jack and came to them via an AARP magazine. There is no proof of this and the memory bank is vague on the matter. No matter the source, this chowder recipe is a New Year’s Day tradition for my sister’s family and one which will see more than one New Year’s Day celebration in my life.

Unlike many chowders, this one is not heavy and hearty. It does not weigh you down, but it does do what any good soup or chowder should do: it feeds the soul. This chowder is more like a soup with a light tomato base flavored with green peppers, onion, potato, and shrimp. It is not inexpensive, but by planning the making of the chowder around a supermarket sale, the cost of the chowder can be minimized.

Create the base with the bacon, onion, potatoes, and tomatoes
Create the base with the bacon, onion, potatoes, and tomatoes

Even though I followed recipe directions, I want to make a few changes/recommendations. First, use a smoked bacon. The overwhelming amount of bacon I consume is smoked but the bacon I used for this chowder was not smoked. The finished product lacked in flavor. The smoky flavor will permeate the chowder, yet not overwhelm the delicate nature of the shrimp. Therefore, there is a note in the recipe for the use of smoked bacon.

I call this Cardinal red, my favorite color.
I call this Cardinal red, my favorite color.

The second recommendation is a minor one. Consider substituting cayenne pepper for the black pepper. There will add a bit more heat to ingredients which should do well with a kick of heat. With only 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper in the ingredients listing, the change to an equal (or less) amount of cayenne should be subtle.

The last recommendation is to reduce the shrimp from 1 1/2 pounds to just one pound. This was done because the grocery store sells one pound packages of shrimp and I was too cheap to purchase a second bag when I had no plan for the balance of the shrimp and a freezer full of beef and chicken. Turns out, the missing half pound of shrimp was not missing at all once the chowder is made. But the $15 I saved is not missing from my wallet!



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