Lately, I’m in love with meatballs. All kinds, not just in spaghetti. You can toss them in soups, serve them on skewers with a variety of sauces or slide them between crusty po’boy or hero bread. They’re great with all sorts of ground meats including veal, lamb, pork, turkey, beef, sausage or chicken, and are further enhanced by different cheeses, bits of ham or prosciutto, pesto or fresh herbs. You can roll meatballs in breadcrumbs and pan-fry them in a skillet, or you can bake them on a cookie sheet to save calories. I find that meatballs in any form are appealing to most kids — mine included — and they’re great for making ahead and freezing. I like to work them into the weeknight line-up and save myself some time and grief.
Shrimp and corn. Artichoke and oyster. Gumbos of all sorts. Cozy soups with memorable ingredients add so much to get-togethers with friends and family this time of year. From casual family suppers to Christmas day lunch to New Year’s Eve dinner, holiday meals invite something luscious and warm.
I love soups right now for so many reasons, not least of which is that there are great seasonal raw materials to work with, including game, fresh seafood, root vegetables and leafy greens. But what I also love about soups is their spontaneity. More often than not, home cooks aren’t following instructions by the book when they get out their stockpots. They’re discerning what ingredients to include and what to leave out, and they’re tasting, adjusting and correcting by feel and by gut. Many are mimicking the soup styles of their forbears, while others are diverging in inventive directions. Whatever the case, soup is one of those from-the-heart dishes meant to inspire and soothe. Now is the perfect time to make some for your friends, family and for yourself.
Here’s an easy version of shrimp and corn.
Shrimp and Corn Soup
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup light roux
2 cups homemade shellfish stock, or one 15 oz. can good quality seafood or shellfish stock
2 bay leaves
1 16 oz. package frozen white corn
¼ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups skim milk
1 pound large headless shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
In a Dutch oven, sauté onion, celery and garlic in olive oil until soft. Whisk in roux, then add stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Continue to whisk until roux is thoroughly incorporated. Add corn and simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Add cream and milk and return to simmer. Add shrimp to hot liquid and watch carefully, ensuring they poach, but do not overcook. This should take about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
When ready to serve, garnish soup with fresh parsley and serve with warm, crusty French bread.