Maine Shrimp Chowder with Crispy Pancetta and Chives

January  6, 2011
8 Ratings
  • Serves 4 as a main course, more as a starter
Author Notes

There are few things I look forward to about New England winters, but the arrival of tiny Maine shrimp at our markets is one of them. They start showing up around January, and as they are local(ish), sustainable, inexpensive and downright delicious, I can never seem to resist bringing some home. Their flavor is sweet and delicate, so I don’t like to do too much to them, and they require a minimal amount of cooking since they’re so small (some people actually eat them raw, but I have yet to go there). Peeling these little guys is the hardest part of working with them, but their shells come off fairly easily, and they make a tasty broth for use in a shrimp risotto, or in this light chowder. —lastnightsdinner

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound Maine shrimp, peeled, shells (and heads, if you have them) reserved
  • 5 cups water
  • Kosher or fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon double-concentrated tomato paste (from a tube)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce pancetta
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, cut into very thin half-moons
  • 1/4 cup fennel bulb, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups waxy potato, like Nicola or Yukon Gold, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • snipped fresh chives for garnish
  1. For the shrimp broth, take the reserved shells (and heads), place into a pot, and add the water, a good pinch of salt, and the tomato paste (odd, I know, but I love the little bit of sweetness it gives, plus a hint of rosy color). Bring to a boil and then simmer, uncovered, until it reduces a bit, tasting and adjusting the salt as needed. When the stock is ready, strain it through cheesecloth to get rid of the shells and any foam or scum that has formed, then set aside or cool and store for future use. You should have about 4 cups worth.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter and add the diced pancetta, frying until it is crispy and golden, stirring occasionally. Remove the browned pancetta and drain it on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the leek, fennel, and celery, season with a pinch of salt, and stir to coat with the fat. Cook about 5 minutes until softened, then add the potato and the shrimp broth. Bring just to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and cook just until the potatoes are tender.
  3. Stir in the half and half, season with pepper, taste and adjust the salt if necessary, and once the soup is back up to temperature, turn off the heat. Stir in the shrimp, cover, and let sit until the shrimp have cooked through in the hot liquid (this should take just a few minutes). Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and top with the crispy pancetta and snipped chives.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • testkitchenette
  • healthierkitchen
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • cheese1227
  • maryvelasquez

13 Reviews

testkitchenette February 14, 2011
This was part of my birthday dinner last night and it was delicious. I used wild Gulf shrimp, doubled the recipe, added some clam juice, and tin of sardines to the shrimp shell broth, and added a bit more tomato paste, and pureed it all (not the shrimp). Everyone LOVED it. Thanks for a great recipe!
healthierkitchen January 25, 2011
Found some Maine shrimp! I'm planning to make this tonight - do you use all four cups of the shrimp stock?
lastnightsdinner January 25, 2011
I do, yes - I hope you enjoy it!
TheWimpyVegetarian January 8, 2011
This looks so good! We don't get the Maine shrimp you write of (or at least, I don't think so), but want to try this soon with what we do get. I add tomato paste to shrimp broth when I'm making paella, so I can see this would work really well here! Thanks!!
lastnightsdinner January 9, 2011
Thank you! They're in season here from about January through April, so we load up on them while we can. I'm sure this would work fine with the smallest shrimp you can find.
cheese1227 January 8, 2011
Great recipe. And I love the saltines.
lastnightsdinner January 9, 2011
Saltines are a guilty pleasure :D And thanks!
maryvelasquez January 8, 2011
Ooo. I love Maine shrimp. The addition of tomato paste and fennel bulb in this chowder sounds really good.
lastnightsdinner January 9, 2011
Thanks! I just love fennel with seafood, and it think it works well here - just a hint of anise without being overpowering.
lastnightsdinner January 7, 2011
Thanks so much! Midge, my favorite fishmonger in Boston is Mercato del Mare in the North End. Liz and Keri are wonderful and if they don't happen to have them in stock I bet they could direct you to someone who does. You might also see if Port Clyde Fresh Catch comes to any of the wintertime farmers' markets in the area. They make a monthly appearance at our Pawtucket winter market with their Maine shrimp and a load of other goodies.
Midge January 8, 2011
Thanks! I'll definitely check them out. Can't wait, I've not bought shrimp since leaving SC.
Midge January 7, 2011
Sounds really great. Do you have a favorite source for Maine shrimp in Boston?
healthierkitchen January 7, 2011
Love Maine shrimp! I haven't seen them in DC yet, but will save this for when I do.