The kitchen smelling of celery, onion and bacon frying. A childhood memory. This simple chowder was quick and cheap and a favorite. With everyone but my dad. He had a curious dislike of this inoffensive soup. I was recently reminded of it when we visited New Orleans this August. We were sitting in Acme Oyster House waiting for po’boy sandwiches after a long flight in from Ottawa. I ordered a cup of their crab bisque, a cream based soup full of fresh corn and crab meat.
The small cup of soup also prompted a conversation around what exactly is the difference between a bisque and a chowder. From what I can discover, bisque is a fancy French word for chowder in everyday use where the terms are interchangeable and floated about fast and free. There are some essential differences purists would argue. Both are milk or cream based. Chowder is a little thicker and and chunkier, bisque is a little thinner and strained to be smooth. Bisques are more layered in flavour, time consuming to make and reduced to intensify flavours. Chowder is considered more of a poor man’s stew where ingredients are merely combined. Both are usually fish based but you will find vegetable and tomato based ones.
My mom has no memory of where she got this recipe, or even if it was a recipe. I am using her base and adding crabmeat and fresh corn, as inspired by Acme’s crab bisque.
Corn & Crab Chowder
1 can potato soup (Campbell’s)
1 can creamed corn
1 can milk (use soup can to measure)
1 rib celery, diced
1/4 pound bacon, diced
small onion, diced
2 ears fresh corn, corn taken off cob
1 cup crab meat
salt and pepper to taste
Render bacon for about a minute then add celery and onion. Sweat until vegetables are tender. Turn heat down low add potato soup, can of milk and then creamed corn. Heat through for 15 minutes on low. Add fresh corn and crab. Heat through. Serve with baguette.
Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.
Today began at 4:45 am. I never sleep the night before I fly and we set two alarms. It was dark of course as I struggled out of bed, but I was happy to be “getting on the road”. Our younger cat, Scout was asleep at the bottom of the bed, all puffy eyed with sleep and none too happy about the disruption. It is still a full hour and a half before she is supposed to lick me awake and failing that, knock my lamp on my head. Our older kitty Smudge is off pouting somewhere, as she has been since she saw me take the suitcases out.
We have a 7:30 flight to Charlotte and then connecting on to New Orleans. Our flying experiences have taught us not to depend on Ottawa international for sustenance so we bring along Chinese BBQ pork buns from Green Fresh, the perfect on-the-run snack, and some sweet cherries. Both flights are on time and have us in to New Orleans just after noon. Its 42 degrees, and humid. We are dressed for a cool Ottawa morning and a cold plane ride. Getting the rental car was unusually painless this time and our room at the Hotel Monteleone was ready for early check in. The travel fairies are in our corner today. Coincidentally there is an international food bloggers conference going on in the city and it is hosted at our hotel. Many of the bloggers I personally follow will be in attendance. We might possibly sign up for an event or two if there is space.
After unpacking, changing and settling in, we decide to grab a pint and a bite. Acme’s Oyster House is around the corner. We visited on our last trip and decided to brave the line and headed over. The line is long but if you are just two and say you will take a table or the bar, it gets you in faster. We were seated at a small table for two at the front window. Pleasant view except for the delivery truck blocking entire said view. No matter. We are hungry, thirsty and thrilled to be here.
We immediately order Blue Moon beers, a favourite of ours that is unavailable at home. We would have ordered a pitcher but it is so hot, it’s pointless. It would be warm before you could get to the bottom of it. The beer goes down easy. We order two more beers and an order of craw puppies, deep fried crawfish meat, spices, green onion and corn batter, which are much like seafood croquettes. The puppies come with a horseradish cream sauce, with a bite bigger than it’s bark for sure.
Next up, Rob ordered a shrimp po’boy, dressed, and I asked for a 1/2 shrimp po’boy with a cup of their crab and corn bisque soup of the day. Po’boys of course are classic N’awlins fare. The bread is slightly crispy with the perfect chewy factor. The shrimp on this po’boy were good but really indistinguishable from any fried fare. I am spoiled by the shrimp po’boy at Guys from my last visit to the city. At Guys the shrimp is lightly battered allowing the delicate flavour of the Gulf shrimp to shine through. The crab and corn bisque was a classic chowder, with a strong corn taste and a nice mild crab flavour.
We finished our “bite” with a shared dish of Acme’s bread pudding, highly recommended by our server. Hot, sweet with a solid pudding texture. Delicious!
Now fortified, we headed back into the heat of the French Quarter ready to explore a bit. But then, we looked at each other and realized more than anything, it was nap time.
We found ourselves headed to Coop’s Place where we had enjoyed an inspired rabbit and ham jambalaya on our last visit. Still travel weary, we were not terribly hungry, but we were awfully thirsty.
Coop’s Place is an awesome dive bar. The bar, dim but warmly lit features a raw, rough oak top that owes its sateen finish to the oil, sweat and beers of thousands. Staff is accommodating but far from effusive. We took our “regular” seats at the bar, with our backs to the pool table, the Packers game and an altar of sorts, and ordered up a couple of beers.
We had to of course have some more of that amazing jambalaya and it can be ordered in a cup size. Perfect. Two cups of jamabalaya and a shared shrimp remoulade salad. The jambalaya was smoky and spicy with hot sauce. The andouille mild and flavorful. The salad was comprised of nice mixed very fresh greens, with large wedges of tomato and rounds of cucumber. The shrimp were plump and sweet. the dressing came on the side and was creamy and mild, a little herbaceous and slightly sweet.