As a peace-loving gesture to the ongoing “war” between serious foodies who side with either the New England or Manhattan chowders, and as a homage to the possible French origins of the former, this lusciously mouthwateringly hearty recipe draws harmoniously comforting inspiration from the divine triangulation of all three truly delicious culinary cultures…
…perfectly luxurious by the open fire with the love of your life on Valentine’s Day as winter comes poised on the breathtaking promise of spring!
1.5 kg white clams, steamed till the shells open. When cooled, remove and set aside the clam muscles, reserving the clam juices
300 g fillets of grey mullet, cubed
2 ribs celery, cubed
2 carrots, cubed and steamed for 20 minutes
2 large potatoes, cubed and steamed for 20 minutes
1 x 440g tin of corn kennels, drained
For the broth:
600 g raw shells of blue swimmer crabs, bashed to little bits in a Ziplock bag
600 g raw prawn shells
2 tbsp butter
½ head of garlic, minced
2 carrots, grated
2 ribs celery, grated
2 large red onions, finely chopped
4 tbsp VSOP cognac
½ cup white wine, good enough for drinking
1 x 170 g tin tomato paste
½ tsp dried black peppercorns, crushed
2 cubes vegetable stock
1 handful fresh coriander, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh oregano
1 cup thickened cream
1½ tsp sumac*
For the roux:
80 g butter
¾ cup plain white flour
8 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in a little water
- Melt the butter in a large stockpot.
- Sauté the raw minced or chopped garlic, carrots, celery and onions for 6 minutes.
- Deglaze the pot with cognac; burning off the alcohol.
- Add the white wine, reducing it for 2 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock, tomato paste, peppercorns, crab and prawn shells, coriander, thyme and oregano.
- Top the pot up with water, just enough to cover the shells.
- Bring to the boil; then simmer the partially covered pot for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, make the roux: (a) Melt the butter in a 2nd large stockpot. (b) Whisk in the flour for 6 to 8 minutes, until the roux turns a rich nutty amber colour. (c) Remove from the heat.
- Strain the shellfish broth through a muslin cloth-lined strainer into the 2nd stockpot.
- Stir till the roux has dissolved in the broth.
- Stir in the cream and sumac.
- Strain the reserved clam juices into the broth.
- Bring the broth back to a boil.
- Simmer in the uncovered pot for 30 minutes to concentrate it.
- Further thicken the broth with the dissolved cornstarch if preferred.
- Add the cubed celery and mullet, and return to the boil.
- Once the mullet is cooked (i.e. turned an opaque white), add the corn and steamed carrots, potatoes and clam muscles.
- Simmer for 2 minutes to warm up the added vegetables and clam muscles.
- Taste the chowder, and season with salt if needed.
- Serve immediately**, with freshly sliced baguette and butter on the side.
Hearty serves of 4 or 5
* The tangy lemony Middle Eastern spice is ground dried red berries of the sumac bush, adding also a beautiful pop of colour to the dish.
** Make just enough for one meal, as leftovers with chunks of mullet can develop a fishy taste after a few days. Otherwise, remove all the mullet from the leftovers; adding them back into the chowder only when reheating it on a later date.