One of my favorite things about living in New England is the wonderful bounty of seafood. No matter what the season there’s always a place to enjoy the freshest catch. Most people know New England-style seafood as being fairly simple; we prefer to enjoy our lobster with a simple drizzle of drawn butter and fresh lemon, with the occasional fried shrimp and calamari..and who could forget the classic, creamy clam chowder? Like most people, I love the comforting richness of a good ol’ cup of “chowda”, but am frequently reluctant to enjoy it due to the fat and calories…Which brings me to the humble sweet potato.
This decadent tuber has all the sweetness and buttery texture that any cream-craving seafood lover could desire. This recipe combines delicious shellfish with buttery sweet potatoes and fresh herbs that allows you to satisfy your chowder cravings without the added guilt.
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Teaspoon paprika
1 4.0 ounce can tomato paste
2 Cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1 Cup mashed sweet potato (about 1 large potato’s worth)
Shrimp, peeled and deveined
Crushed red pepper
Step #1: To start, boil 1 large (or 2 small) sweet potatoes until completely soft (Note: you could also bake it, but it will take longer).
Step #2: While the sweet potato cooks, chop the onions, and saute in olive oil over medium heat until slightly brown. Add the bay leaf, garlic, and clove.
Step #3: Once onions are translucent, add 1 small can (about 4 ounces) of tomato paste and bring to a simmer.
Step #4: Stir in 2 cups vegetable broth (chicken broth would also be okay, but DO NOT use beef broth). Bring to a simmer.
Step #5: Defrost your seafood. I used shrimp, but feel free crawfish, prawns, scallops, lobster…basically any shellfish.
Step #6: While you wait for the broth to boil and shrimp to that, remove the peel from the boiled, cooled sweet potato. Place the sweet potato in a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Gradually add it to the broth and blend with a hand blender until smooth. Make sure not to add all the sweet potato at once. If the soup seems too thin, add more potato. If it’s too thick, add more broth. Note, there is no cream or dairy in this soup, but the texture will be creamy, rich, just like a bisque.
Step #7: Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove the bay leaf and clove, and add your seafood (about 1 cup total). It’s okay to add either raw seafood or cooked seafood, but keep in mind that shellfish gets really chewy when it’s overcooked so you want to avoid boiling it for too long. Once the soup comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat.
Step #8: Ladle the soup into ramekins. Chop up your favorite herbs (I prefer basil, chives, scallions, and crushed red pepper flakes) and stir into the soup.
Step #9: For a classic New England twist, swirl in a spoon of cream cheese. It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s amazing. I didn’t have cream cheese when I made this last night, but I served it with toasted baguettes smeared with a little herb goat cheese.
Step #10: Enjoy with a glass of chardonnay!