a beautiful disaster

IMG_0035_2I know it’s already February and I am a week late posting about my last bread and soup adventure, but better late than never, right?

I call it an adventure, but really it was more of a beautiful disaster. Beautiful: the soup. Disaster: the bread.

It seems I am destined to fail at free-form bread making. At the very least, there is more of a learning curve than I expected.

IMG_0034_2This week, my pretzel bread completely fell apart, literally. It practically dissolved in the boiling water. Yeah, it’s not supposed to do that. At some point, I will try to make it again — with more flour. Probably lots more. That is the tricky part: Many recipes give you an approximate amount of flour and you kind of have to figure out how much is enough. Being a newbie, I don’t have the best judgment yet. But I’ll get there.

While the pretzel bread wasn’t much of a success, my bacon-corn chowder with butter-poched shrimp turned out quite well.

You may see a common theme here: bacon. While it does make everything better, I honestly was not seeking out bacon-centric recipes. In fact, last week I looked for a chowder with which I could pair some recently bought shrimp. Being a New England girl, I know my way around a clam chowder, so I wanted to avoid making your typical milk or heavy cream chowder.

The recipe I used uses more chicken stock than heavy cream, so it’s a bit healthier. What helped to make it more creamy was taking about half the broth, blending it until it was smooth, then adding it back into the rest of stock.

The end result: A hearty and creamy chowder that hits the spot.

IMG_0031_2I topped it off with a butter-poached shrimp. You can, as the recipe says, cook the shrimp in the chowder. That would have been healthier, haha. But I wanted to try a new technique, and as I loathe the idea of poached eggs, butter poaching seafood seemed like the best option for me.

The best part: It’s really easy to butter poach shrimp. All it takes is some butter, low heat and time — all of which make the shrimp tender and juicy, with a slight sweetness. By butter poaching, you easily avoid under- and overcooking the shrimp. Goodbye rubbery texture. Here’s a shrimp and grits recipe that explains how to poach the shrimp.

Even better: You can use a little bit of the butter in the soup or save it later for other recipes.

You might also suspect that I love butter, too. Butter makes every thing better. That phrase seems to work for everything, doesn’t it?

Well, this is the end of bread and soup month. And while I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, I did eat some delicious food and learn some new techniques.

And as I have never been a quitter, I am kicking off February with babka, or holiday bread. I am making some tweaks to a recipe my aunt gave me, and I hope it turns out as amazing as I picture it in my head. My aunt thinks it will be too sweet … but we’ll see. February, after all, is the perfect month for sweets (which I consider my wheelhouse), so you’ll be seeing more of those soon!

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