Cold weather time is finally upon us and that means it's time to make comfort food! Comfort food makes me gain weight. And umm, I know it's getting cold in other parts of the country but here in Los Angeles, it was 85 degrees today. But this morning it was down to about 65 degrees! That's cold. You people on the East Coast probably are shaking your heads right now and have no sympathy for me whatsoever.
This soup is delicious and best to make at the tail end of summer or the very beginning of fall, when fresh corn is still available. You can definitely make it with frozen corn as well, but I've never tried it that way before. Fresh corn has a sweetness to it that frozen just can't capture.
4 cups fish stock, clam broth, chicken broth or water (you can buy bottled clam broth at the market)
1.5 lbs shrimp, shelled, chopped into pieces roughly 1/2-inch thick, shells reserved
4 ears corn, shucked, kernels cut off, cobs and kernels reserved separately
2 sprigs basil cut into fine ribbons, stems reserved
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 lb bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 fennel bulb, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 bay leaf
Red pepper flakes
28-ounce can whole tomatoes, squashed by hand, juice reserved
In a medium pot, bring the fish stock, broth or water to a boil with the shrimp shells, naked corn cobs and basil stems. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
In a large pot set over medium heat, melt the butter and fry the bacon in it. When the bacon is crisp, remove with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Cook the onion, garlic, celery, fennel and carrots in the hot fat until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.
Strain the shrimp and corn cob broth into the pot. Add the corn kernels, potatoes, bay leaf and red pepper flakes to taste (about 1/4 tsp). Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, crush about a third of the potato against the side of the pot. Stir in the squashed up tomatoes and reserved juice, return to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes more.
Turn off the stove heat. Add the chopped up shrimp, stir well and adjust the seasoning to taste, adding salt, pepper and more red pepper flakes. The shrimp will cook from the heat of the soup; it's a miracle! Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the reserved basil leaves and bacon.