May it Please the Palate: Put a 'little' fat in your life with this Paula Deen recipe

I belong to a gym that is owned by the adjacent market, that gives a discount to gym members. The TV's in the gym, across from the elliptical trainers and the treadmills, are often tuned into a cooking show. I find this to be insidious, and ingenious. As it happens, I am often there the same time as Paula Deen's show. For those unaware, Deen and her sons run a Savannah restaurant, "Lady and Sons," that she has parlayed into fame and a Food Network show. Deen features traditional Southern cooking (including deep fried Twinkies), and often parodies her own obsession with butter. This has not been without criticism. When Deen was interviewed by Barbara Walters about a cookbook she had written for children, Walters asked, "You tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast. You tell them to have chocolate cake and meatloaf for lunch. And French fries. Doesn't it bother you?" Comedian Maria Bamford has compared Deen's recipes to a suicide note. At the gym, we watch Deen's show with horrified fascination, as she caresses her sticks of butter, or, as I once saw, engages in sexual innuendo with her sons (I kid you not). Still, her down-home recipes do sometimes make me hungry. And after the most recent show I watched, I am only partly ashamed to say, I decided to try her recipe. Deen got me by featuring my favorite food, potatoes, in a shrimp-potato chowder. She suggested corn as a substitute for the shrimp, and that is the version I made. This rich concoction, made with butter, milk, and cream, is not sufficient by itself in a bowl. Oh no. Deen is compelled to finish the dish with a heap of shredded cheddar cheese and bacon bits. It was like a deconstructed loaded baked potato, or less charitably, a bowl of Elmer's Glue with toppings. Yet, it looked delicious, and it's ridiculously easy to make. I tried to tone her recipe down slightly by substituting broth for milk and milk for cream, and emphasizing other vegetables over the potatoes. But I stayed fairly true to the original. My version with corn was quite satisfying, and fed me dinner through three straight rainy fall evenings. Paula Deen's Shrimp (or Corn) Potato Chowder Ingredients: 1/2 stick butter 1 small onion, diced 2 large carrots, diced about the same size as the onion 1/2 cup savory or regular celery, diced fine 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour 6 medium potatoes (feel free to substitute some rutabaga), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes 3 cups milk: whole, reduced or low fat, or mixture 2 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1 cup water 1 cup half-and-half or whole milk salt and pepper to taste 1 lb medium shrimp (or kernels from 3-4 ears of corn) For garnish: Grated sharp cheddar cheese Chopped green onion stalks Crumbled bacon bits Preparation: In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion, celery and carrots until both are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, milk, and broth. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft and some of them have begun to dissolve into mush. Add the half-and-half or milk, salt, and pepper. If using shrimp: In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups lightly salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp all at once and stir well. Watch the shrimp closely; as soon as they all turn pink, about 2-3 minutes, turn off the heat and drain. The shrimp should be slightly undercooked. When they are cool, peel them, and chop roughly into big chunks. Add the shrimp to the soup and stir well, then serve. If using corn: Add the kernels after the potatoes have cooked for 9-10 minutes. Serve soup sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits and chopped green onion. After eating this, an extra half hour on the elliptical for me, with more Paula Deen to watch. Let the cycle continue. Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine. He can be reached at: Published: Mon, Dec 12, 2011