After more than a month of eating only what we could buy prepared or what we could cook on a charcoal grill (thank you, Weber), both Dominic and I are ecstatic to make use of our stove. Chowder has long been one of my favorite foods—I am an ocean girl, after all—and the other night was cool and cloudy, so, perfect soup weather. We found MR Seafoods’ Montague truck and picked up a package of rock crab, as well as some corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes from local farmers.
As mentioned, I love chowder…both cooking and consuming it. But I’m not a fan of the sludgy, flour-thickened kind. So, if your preference is for a super-thick soup, then consider starting with a roux and building from there. This recipe(ish) leads to a thinner broth, but is loaded with so much crab and corn and leek that it ends up quite hearty. You could always process the chowder through a blender to make a bisque, saving the rock crab and half the corn to stir in later if you wish.
So, several of the ingredient quantities are approximate. My first gig in a professional kitchen was as a baker’s assistant. My boss, an awesome self-taught pastry chef, would answer most questions about quantity with a goodly amount. Sometimes, she’d simply tell me: “You are the master of your own ship.” And I would figure it out.
So, you know, account for your own taste.
4 Slices thick-sliced bacon (or more, if you wish), ~2T grease reserved
A goodly amount of butter (somewhere around a stick?)
1 large Vidalia or Spanish onion, thinly sliced
3 large leeks, thinly sliced
1 c(ish) dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc b/c it was on hand)
Juice of 1 lemon (or more, to taste)
1 1/2 T dijon mustard (the Grey Poupon here in Canada is different from the stuff in the U.S., it has some fat in it…so, you know, to taste or add some extra butter, whatever)
1 - 2 pints fresh tomatoes (I bought a variety, ranging from super sweet to average cherry), mostly whole, halved if large
1 T olive oil (extra virgin, semi-virgin, doesn’t matter)
6 ears sweet corn, grilled, sliced from cob
Bunch fresh dill, minced
6 - 7 c chicken broth (Ultimate amount depends on how broth-y vs. creamy you prefer and how far you want to stretch the ingredients. We like chowder you could pile onto bread, so, a bit less broth.)
1 lb rock crab meat
3/4 - 1 1/2 c half&half (10% cream)…again, one of those a goodly amount moments, based entirely on how creamy you want your chowder or how much coffee you intend to drink the next morning before you make a grocery run (drink your coffee black, people…your dentist will hate you, but you’ll always have enough cream for chowder)
All the salt, some of the (freshly ground) pepper
Sauté bacon in large saucepan (somewhere in the 6-quart vicinity). Once browned, remove from heat and save for later to crumble over finished chowder. Discard 3/4 of fat, keeping some for cooking.
Toss butter, sliced/cubed, into the pan. Once melted, add onions and leeks. Stir to scrape up the bacon drippings. Heat should be somewhere around medium to medium-high. Sweat (baby, sweat) until translucent, stirring occasionally to prevent browning. Salt and pepper. Always add more salt than you think is necessary. Pretend you’re a deer.
Once tender, add wine, lemon juice, and mustard. Stir. Let simmer until reduced by about half.
Meanwhile, throw the tomatoes and olive oil in a pan, with salt and pepper, and sauté until the tomatoes start to split. Take off the heat and save for later.
Add the chicken broth to the onion-leek-wine mix. Stir in the grilled corn, rock crab (with any juices from the packaging), tomatoes, and dill. Bring to a simmer, or until you cuss when attempting to taste. Add pepper. And salt, if you didn’t believe me about “over”-salting. (The corn, crab, and tomatoes are all on the sweet side. Even with the acid from the lemon and wine, you’re going to want salt. Sweet-and-salty is a thing, right?)
Reduce the heat to low and add the half&half slowly. This will help prevent curdling and also allow you to add just enough to your taste.
Then, eat. With bread, salad, both. Because we still don’t have a table set up, we ate our chowder on a makeshift TV tray on our bed with some fleur de sel and more pepper and butter and seltzer. And Law & Order, the original series, on DVD, because our satellite internet doesn’t really support streaming, so we’re revisiting the classics.