Oyster Chowder with Saffron and Serrano Ham

Oyster Chowder 1

The first man gets the oyster, the second man gets the shell
Andrew Carnegie

Of course this is not the least bit low-calorie with the additions of butter and cream, but we decided that a little bit of the chowder goes a long way as it is rich and filling.   Perfect for a casual dinner, serve with a salad and oyster crackers or popovers.

Serves 6

*I added peeled, deveined, sautéed shrimp because Michael won’t eat oysters

4 ounces apple wood smoke bacon
1/2 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus a small sprig to toss into the broth
1 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
Toasted saffron
1 dried red chili pepper, chopped or red pepper flakes
4 celery ribs the tender ones from the center of the celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
Splashes of white wine
2 quarts seafood stock strained oyster liquor from 1 pint oysters
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4-5 small Yukon gold potatoes halved and sliced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Salt and Freshly ground pepper
*1 lb shrimp seasoned with salt, ground pepper melange, pinch of red pepper flakes, briefly sautéed in EVOO until they just turn pink, about 2 minutes.  If using whole peppercorns remove before adding to stew
1 pint freshly shucked select oysters (you might want to add 2 pints because the select oyster count may only be 9 plump oysters per container)
Shredded serrano ham
Fresh parsley
* Lemon zest
Tabasco, for serving


1. Brown the bacon in a 6-quart soup pot, remove to drain on paper towels, leave about 2-3 tablespoons bacon fat in the pot.   Saute (medium high heat) rosemary, pinches of saffron and minced peppers or pepper flakes, saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the celery, onion, shallot and fennel and cook over medium to medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes, then toss in a splash or two of white wine.   Add the stock and oyster liquor and bring to a simmer.  Stir in the potatoes and simmer until just tender.

2. In a medium saucepan, toast saffron if using and melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium low heat, stirring, until the roux is a just turning a pale brown color, about 5 minutes.  Add the roux into the soup and bring to a low boil and the soup has thickened, about 10 minutes, stir often. Stir in the cream, season with salt and pepper and return to a simmer.

3. Add the * sautéed shrimp, oysters and bacon to the chowder and simmer until the oysters just curl. Spoon the chowder into deep bowls and serve with shredded Serrano ham and minced parsley…

Oyster Chowder Peppercorn Satueed Shrimp I Oyster Chowder Popovers II

Manchego popovers adapted from Giada’s Garlic and Cheese Popovers with Anchovy Butter…1-1-1/2 tablespoons anchovy paste is enough