There is not much that can top the succulent, buttery-sweet taste of ocean’s prized gem, the lobster. But you better bet your low sodium pants that I was determined to try and find an unbelievably close substitution.
Now, I want to say, unabashedly, before proceeding that this recipe is not only wonderful for people on a low sodium diet, but great for food-lovers who: (a) do not live near sea-faring towns with exceptional crustaceans, (b) blow up into a histamine-balloon when eating anything with shells, and (c) wish to save their cash for rent and not spend a fortune on a home-cooked meal. So with that, let’s move on to the good stuff.
The trick to making any low sodium substitution is to first lock down the key flavors and textures you want to mimic. With lobster, I knew I needed a fish that was meaty and sturdy enough to hold its shape once it was added to the soup. And in terms of taste, I knew that it had to have a natural, sugar essence that would enhance the sweetness of the butter, corn, and cream in the chowder.
And I discovered that there exists not just one, but three low sodium options: halibut (60mg of sodium per 3 oz serving), monkfish (15 mg of sodium per 3 oz serving), and, if you can eat shellfish, crayfish (60mg of sodium per 3oz serving).
Of all the options, monkfish will be your cheapest. Crayfish will be your most successful in terms of providing a lobster-like experience. And halibut will be decadent and delicious. You really cannot go wrong with any of them.
For this particular test-run, I decided use the halibut because I wanted to make the dish shell-fish free and as silky-smooth as possible. I bought a 3/4 pound filet and coarsely chopped the fish into chunks to look like pieces of lobster meat. The halibut held up incredibly well in the thick broth, even when I reheated it a day later. It did not flake and it melted when it hit my mouth. The halibut also successfully sponged-up the other flavors of the broth, making each bite explode. I mean, just look at this sea of low sodium, creamy goodness.
So with that mouth-watering picture and description, I happily pass onto you my recipe for Lobster-less Corn Chowder (an adaptation of Mark Bittman’s Corn Chowder).
Chow and chowder on.
- 4 ears fresh corn, shucked
- 4 cups of water
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 leek (white and green parts), cleaned and thinly sliced
- 1 /4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Yukon Gold potato, cleaned and cut into bite-size cubes
- 3/4 pound of halibut, cut into chunks (or monkfish or crayfish with meat removed)
- 2-3 cups half-and-half (or coconut milk, but warning, it will be very sweet)
- 1 tablespoon of sweet, smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon of ground white pepper
- 1/4 cup of parsley, roughly torn or chopped
- A sprinkling of red chili pepper flakes
1. Remove the corn from the cob by standing each ear up in a bowl and use a knife to scrape off the kernels.
2. Put the corncobs and water (and cleaned crayfish shells if you are using them) in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat (or use the low sodium corn cob broth from yesterday’s post).
3. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the water bubbles gently, cover, and cook, checking occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Leave the cobs (and shells) in the pot until you are ready to make the soup, then discard them and save the corncob broth.
4. While your broth is boiling, put the butter in a large, deep stock pot over medium-high heat. Slowly cook the butter until it has browned (it will have a dark caramel color and will smell nutty) and add the leeks. Cook while stirring occasionally, until soft, about 1 minute.
5. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk or a wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to turn golden and the flour no longer smells raw, just a couple of minutes.
6. Add three cups of corncob broth to the pot and raise the heat to medium-high. Stir or whisk constantly until the flour is dissolved and the soup starts to thicken, about 2 minutes.
7. Add the potato cubes to the pot and allow them to cook and soften.
8. In another bowl or blender, puree half of your corn kernels with the last cup of the corncob broth.
9. Stir in the corn puree and corn kernels and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat so that the soup simmers gently.
10. Add the half-and-half (or coconut milk), the white pepper, the sweet, smoked paprika, and the halibut. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender and the soup has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
11. To plate, ladle soup into large bistro bowls (that you can stick your face into) and sprinkle with parsley and red chili pepper flakes. Enjoy.