Sunday, January 13, 2013

What is Winter Soup?

Recently someone asked us about a winter soup recipe, something along the lines of beef barley.  There's nothing like the smell of a warm hearty beef anything simmering on the stove to warm the house, and I think some kind of beef soup or stew should make a weekly appearance all winter long.  But around this time of winter, two things happen to make me lean toward something else for a winter soup recipe.  First, I'm getting a little tired of the hearty beef yummies I was so excited about two months ago, and second, cold-loving Atlantic shellfish are in high season.  So when I heard winter soup, my first thought was: chowder!  This is a version of a very light but wonderfully filling chowder that we first came up with a few years ago.  The idea of chowder still seems so daunting to me that I rarely make it, but every time I do, I wonder why I was thought that, because at least in this version it's not only easy but fast!  We used a variety of shellfish, including the great treat of oysters; for a less expensive version, skip the oysters and/or the clams and use more mussels instead, or replace one or all of the shellfish with a robust white fish, like halibut.























Seafood Chowder with Croutons
serves 6

12 cherrystone clams
12 oysters
1 lb. mussels
2 slices thick bacon, cut into 1/2" squares
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water
1 carrot, cut into 1/2" squares
3 small-medium potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 links sausage (we used 2 pre-cooked frankfurters from Sherman Market (not like any hotdog you've ever had!) and 2 organic beer brauts, also from Sherman, boiled in water for 30 minutes then fried/grilled)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup whole milk
salt, if necessary

With a stiff brush, clean shellfish under cool water. If any are open, gently tap them on the counter. If they do not close up in a minute or so, discard them. Any that are broken should be discarded, as well.

In a large soup pot, saute the bacon until it renders, stirring frequently (about 5 minutes). Remove and set aside, leaving the fat. 

Saute the onion in the bacon fat until it is translucent (about 5 minutes). 

Add the chicken broth, carrots, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. 

Add the bacon and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).  

When the veggies are tender, add the clams and oysters. Cover and cook until all have opened, (~ 8-10 minutes but checking frequently). As they open, remove them to a cutting board. Discard any that remain closed. Take out meat and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return it to the pot.

Cut the sausage into 1/2" thinck rounds and toss into the soup. 

Add in the mussels and cover and cook until they open, ~ 4 to 5 minutes but checking frequently. When they are open, turn off heat and leave mussels in the pot, shell and all.  

Add milk and pepper. Taste to see if salt is needed; it probably won't be, as the shellfish release saltwater when they open.  

Serve immediately with croutons (see below). Any mussels that did not open should be discarded.


Croutons

4 cups bread cubes (any variety of bread, cut into 1/2" pieces)
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T olive oil
2 tsp. minced parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Toss everything together in a bowl, evenly coating the bread cubes. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350, stirring frequently, until starting to brown (~ 15 to 20 minutes).