Lapsang Souchong is a tea whose smoky quality is so potent that you can smell it through an unopened plastic-covered box – even when each tea bag is enclosed in a sealed packet.
While it is an acquired taste as a tea for drinking, its smoked essence makes it a perfect source of natural smoked seasoning. The tea is a wonderful enhancement for chowders and other soups.
Earlier this year, I fell in love with McCormick's recipe for corn chowder with smoked tea and chorizo. The recipe calls for 7 ounces of diced chorizo to be browned in 2 teaspoons of oil, but slow-cured, hard Spanish chorizo is fatty enough to do without the added oil. The chorizo's rendered fat can also sauté the onions in this recipe.
In that test and more recently, I used Imperial Spanish chorizo, a shelf stable slow-cured sausage that comes in regular and hot varieties, both made without nitrates or nitrites. Spanish chorizo compares to salami or pepperoni, whereas links of Mexican chorizo are a fresh sausage more like the Italian sausage used for sandwiches with peppers and onions. Spanish chorizo is usually covered in a thin paper. Be sure to peel it off before dicing.
Using the full two cups of Spanish chorizo for the first take on the recipe produced a luscious red chowder with a velvety broth owed to the high fat content. It was so rich that the recipe's instruction to add cream seemed like overkill. I left it out.
In subsequent tests, I cut the amount of chorizo in half and added dark red kidney beans. While I missed the velvety smooth quality of the first batch, cutting the amount of sausage eliminated a significant amount of the recipe's saturated fat. The soup with less chorizo is even more delicious on the second day when the flavors have a chance to blend.
The wonderful thing about soups is that they can be customized to taste or according to what you have on hand. I added a clove of garlic and canned okra to the recipe with pleasing results, as in the soup shown above. In soups, the same slime that makes okra an often-avoided vegetable imparts a silky quality that enhances the broth.
The use of dried cilantro and cumin in this recipe gives this chowder a chili-like appeal, making it an even more interesting departure from traditional chowders.
For those who wish to avoid the additives in liquid smoke seasoning, the Lapsang Souchong tea infusion is an exciting flavoring option to explore. The tea can also be ground for use as a seasoning. Twinings Lapsang Souchong tea is available at Kings and Wegmans stores for about $3.
Here's my adaptation of the McCormick recipe:
Smoky corn and chorizo chowder
1 bag of Twinings brand Lapsang Souchong tea
2 cups boiling water
4 ounces dried chorizo sausage, diced (1 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups frozen organic corn
1 can (14 - 15 ounces) dark red kidney beans, undrained
1 pound red-skin potates, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 can (14-1/2 ounce) cut okra, undrained (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cups of beef or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1. Steep tea bag in boiling-hot water for 5 minutes. Remove bag. Set tea aside.
2. Heat chorizo with onion in a stock pot over medium heat. Cook 5 to 8 minutes, stirring periodically, until onion is softened. Stir in garlic. Sprinkle with flour; cook and stir 1 minute. Add the corn, beans, potatoes, okra, coriander and cumin. Mix well. Stir in the tea and broth. Cover and simmer over low heat until potatoes are cooked, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt as desired.
Note: If you use the original recipe at McCormick.com, be sure to note the cool feature that allows you to select the number of servings you need and have the recipe ingredients adjusted accordingly.