Thursday, June 7, 2012
oyster and bacon soup
So this is not your every day soup. With 5 pounds of muscles that don't even make it into the final product, not to mention 36 oysters, this is definitely one of the spendiest dishes you're ever going to see on Garlicus Maximus. That being said, Andrew Carmellini's bacon oyster chowder is delicious and would be an excellent addition to a special occasion type meal.
My mom and I made this for one particularly special occasion: Christmas dinner. That's right, it's taken me 5+ months to get to this post. Terrible, I know. But this soup is good enough that you're going to have to forgive me.
Despite being loaded with cream and bacon and beer and potatoes, it somehow managed to be a fairly delicate soup. It's probably a dish more suited to winter that the rapidly approaching summer, but honestly who would complain if you were to serve this with a couple of cold pints of lager, a crusty loaf of bread and a leafy green salad with a zingy vinaigrette. So wait til it gets cold, or don't. Just be prepared to slurp, if you want to make this awesome seafood soup.
Oyster Chowder With Beer and Bacon
adapted from a recipe in New York Magazine by Andrew Carmellini
5 lb fresh mussels
2 12-oz. bottles of pilsner or IPA
6 tbs. butter
2 cups finely diced smoked bacon
2½ cups finely diced onion
2½ cups finely diced celery
3 lb Yukon Gold or other yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2½ cups cream
1½ cups milk
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 sprigs fresh thyme
*36 fresh oysters, shucked, liquor reserved (Wellfleet or bluepoint preferred)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
One bunch of chives, finely chopped
Rinse the mussels thoroughly in cold water to remove any excess sand, and place them in a large pot with the beer. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat until all the mussels open. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, then strain the liquid and reserve. (The mussels don't actually go in the soup, although I suppose you could add them. You can eat them separately, maybe with linguini, or on some toasted crostini.)
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, adding the bacon and cooking over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until the bacon starts to render and caramelize slightly. Add the onions and celery, then cook for 2 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften. (Do not allow them to brown.) Add the mussel-beer broth, and set aside.
Add all ingredients to a saucepan, and simmer until the potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes). Remove the thyme, and discard. Use a slotted spoon to remove half the potatoes, and add them to the soup base. With an immersion blender, purée the remaining potatoes. Add the purée to the soup base, and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes to combine flavors.
Add the oysters along with their liquor. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Garnish with chives, and serve.
*If you have difficulty shucking the oysters, you can steam them ever so briefly so that the shell pop open, being careful not to let them overcook. We ladled out the soup for everyone and then portioned out three oysters for each bowl, and they were just beautiful. I think the raw oysters are supposed to cook in the soup a little anyway, so this seems like a totally acceptable cheat to me. Plus, shucking oysters is no easy task.