Nice People Get Clam Chowder

bay leaves for No Fuss Clam Chowder

Who might you ask is nice? Just about everyone in Texas.  It sounds like an exaggeration, but I assure you it’s true.  Our relocation here has been met by a welcoming committee that extends far beyond our tiny (but valuable) collection of new acquaintances. Perfect strangers offer such a heartfelt welcome that they barely stop short of a big bear hug. They’re inclusive, helpful, excited and genuinely hopeful that you will be happy in their beloved state. I’m starting to wonder why everyone doesn’t move to Texas…..maybe it’s the heat.

butter and cream for no-fuss clam chowder

My husband’s team at work is simply one more example of this hospitality. For the months and months…and months that he traveled between states, they never waivered in their concern for his grueling schedule or the separation from his family. They routinely inquired after me and eagerly looked forward to when we would all be settled in TX together. Shortly after I got here (and thanks to my husband’s fervent PR campaign) requests from his office came pouring in for Cheeseburger Soup. I was happy to oblige, but knowing my aversion to Velveeta you might have guessed I wanted to prepare something a bit more….well….sophisticated.  Didn’t happen. I’m a pleaser.  Cheeseburger Soup made its TX debut and did not disappoint. I really don’t’ think this soup can. It’s a dirty little secret that I will forever deny should I come face-to-face with Ina.

baby clams for No Fuss Clam Chowder

While serving lunch that day I managed to field requests for lobster bisque, a confusingly described jalapeño something that is served somewhere in Grapevine and clam chowder.  A while ago I made a classic clam chowder for my father-in-law, only to be poked and prodded for the last year by my husband urging me (obviously not subtly) for his clam chowder to make it on the menu. It’s loaded with sweet canned baby clams AND it’s studded with more than its fair share of applewood smoked bacon. I think the recipe originally came from Williams-Sonoma and with a few minor tweaks it’s a household favorite. However, this time around, it’s not only for our dinner table, but a large jar traveled to work with my husband for a very special someone who just happens to fall into the “Nice People” category.

No-Fuss Clam Chowder

No-Fuss Clam Chowder

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma “Soup” Cookbook.

Try to make this a day in advance as the flavors will continue to develop as it sits overnight. Feel free to add more clam juice if you want a bolder clam flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 3 oz pancetta, small dice
  • 1 cup chopped celery, small chop (about 3 stalks)
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP extra-dry vermouth
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 14 oz red potatoes, small chop (about 3 medium)
  • 2 10oz cans baby clams, drained
  • 12 oz frozen sweet corn, thawed
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan (I used a 4 qt saute/simmer) over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes so it just begins to soften.
  2. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the celery and cook for another 1 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan by pouring in the vermouth and scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  6. Deglaze the pan a second time by pouring in the clam juice and scraping up the brown bits.
  7. Pour in the dairy along with the potatoes, corn, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
  8. Raise the heat enough to bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Stir frequently to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add the parsley and clams and simmer for an additional 5 minutes until the clams are warmed through.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/04/16/nice-people-get-clam-chowder/

 

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Amber Anne

My dear, now pregnant, Amber is one of the most beautiful people I know. Within minutes of making her acquaintance you realize that her outward beauty pales to what’s inside her heart. She has a kindness that radiates, bathing those around her like sunrays warming the earth. It’s just so cuddly you never want her to leave! Aside from her warmth, Amber Anne is in intoxicated with life. Eager to exhaust every waking moment engrossed in living, learning and bettering her person. She so desperately wants to do it all that I’ve never known her to be well-rested- although you would never know it. What’s unique about this drive is her motivation.  Unlike many, it’s not a bucket list, rather a billowing excitement that can only be contained for so long. She’s curious. And has the audacity to ignore the notion that you can’t do it all. This palpable, inspiring energy will soon be directed into uncharted territory….motherhood.

I can’t really relate (although I imagine a lot!), but I do want to share and celebrate what will undoubtedly be Amber’s biggest life altering experience. Her favorite soup is butternut squash, specifically from a bastion of Raleigh’s culinary greats, the Angus Barn. Which reminds me……every holiday season they offer Opus One BY THE GLASS!!!! Time to put on my dancing shoes!

Trying to mimic this soup would ridiculous, besides I wanted to create something special for the new mom-to-be. Initially I researched all the things a pregnant woman should eat, which nutrients were most important and of course what to stay clear of. After pages and pages of Google returns I’m convinced being pregnant should be a full-time job. Growing a human being is complicated! I switched gears, rather ingredients, and combined another of her favorites, shrimp, into a luscious, Babymoon qualifying kind of decadent, Roasted Butternut Squash and Shrimp Bisque. I expect Angus Barn to calling any day.

By the way, her name is actually not Amber Anne, its Amber Dawn. Years ago we renamed each other (I went from Ericka Marie to Ericka Anne) as a way to forever link our kindred bond. I have a feeling this soup will do the same.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shrimp Bisque

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shrimp Bisque

Inspired by Ina Garten's Shrimp Bisque.....and a pregnat woman.

This is one of those unusual combinations that just works. The squash and the shrimp are equally represented and the addition of warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg bridge the two offering a familiar, comforting surprise.

Ingredients

  • 1 2lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 4 TBSP olive oil, divided
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 TBSP freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 cups chopped leeks
  • 2 TBSP fresh chopped sage
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • A few dashes of cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Rub the cut side of the squash with 1 TBSP olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the squash, cut side down (to keep it moist), until tender (45 minutes to an hour).
  4. When cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl.
  5. While the squash is roasting, trim the leeks so that you have only the white and light green parts, and then thinly slice. Rinse like crazy in a colander using your fingers to move them around and around to ensure all the dirt is removed.
  6. Heat 3 TBSP of olive oil and 1 TBSP butter over medium heat (I use a 6.75 quart Dutch oven). Add the leeks and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes until the leeks are wilted and tender. Stir occasionally. Be sure not to brown them or this will change the flavor of your bisque.
  7. Add the shrimp and cayenne pepper and cook for 3 minutes stirring and turning the shrimp a few times. The shrimp will not be completely cooked.
  8. Add chopped sage and freshly squeezed orange juice and stir for 1 minute.
  9. Add the sherry and cook for 4 minutes; stir frequently. Try to stay focused…the amazing aroma in your kitchen will be distracting! The liquid should not have all evaporated and the shrimp will be brilliantly pink (cooked).
  10. Put the shrimp mixture in the food processor, and coarsely puree, scraping down the sides as needed. Wipe out the Dutch oven with a paper towel and return the shrimp to the pot.
  11. Puree the roasted squash in the processor and add to the shrimp mixture.
  12. Return to medium heat and stir in 2 cups of chicken stock along with the nutmeg and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer.
  13. Reduce heat to low and add the cream and salt. Slowly reheat. DO NOT BOIL.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/12/19/amber-anne/

Notes:

How to buy shrimp:

Consider “count” and always buy frozen. For obvious reasons, shrimp is generally frozen at sea, which means what you are purchasing from the counter has most likely been previously frozen and is now thawing in the case (getting chewy), therefore making the frozen shrimp a fresher option. “Count” refers to the number of shrimp it takes to achieve a pound. So, the lower the count, the larger the shrimp and the fewer you need to make a pound. Generally, larger shrimp are tastier. “21-25 count” is a good choice for this bisque and is pretty standard.

There are few things to look for when selecting a butternut squash:

  1.  Organic- I just learned from Sara Britton of the food blog My New Roots that butternut squash is like a sponge. It soaks up any impurities (a.k.a. pesticides) in the soil in which it is grown. So if you don’t want to contaminate your body, opt for organic.
  2. You want your squash to be firm, feel heavy and have a matte rind and a muted tan orange skin. The more orange the rind, the sweeter the squash. Don’t take it home if it has any soft spots, signs of decay or if it is wrinkly.
  3. Look for a smooth squash that doesn’t have any marks on it. Gauges, scratches, etc. are prone to bacteria growth.
  4. Make sure the stem is still present. It helps retain moisture.

If you need to store your butternut squash do so away from heat and light in a dark, dry and cool place with plenty of ventilation. Not the refrigerator. Basements are preferable, but I don’t have one so I use a closet. I wouldn’t keep it more than a month.

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Like Father, Like Son

When I was first married I relied on a few recipes and made them over and over until they were exactly to our preference. This stocked me with a collection of dishes that I had a comfort level with and could make with relative ease and on short notice. New England Clam Chowder was one of them. In fact, I haven’t tried a new version in over 10 years and when I broke the news to my husband that a new clam chowder was on the horizon, I had to pull out the “remember that Thanksgiving” card. The one where a week before we found ourselves in a hushed, very uncharacteristic hostile disagreement (surprisingly fine dining establishments frown on public displays of aggression) over why I was “tempting” disaster and trying an alternate turkey preparation. Ultimately, I went ahead and made the turkey my way (was there any question) and he graciously proclaimed it was the best he’d ever had. So, armed with this historical victory I tempted disaster once again.

My father-in-law was in town for a brief visit and turns out that like his son, he also has an affinity for clam chowder. Ina Garten boasts a silky, homey version that intrigued me because of its simplicity. It was different from our usual in that it didn’t have the smoky bacon flavor or juicy kernels of sweet corn, but different can be good and in this case great. We were treated with simple straightforward flavors that really deferred to the clams. I love recipes that exhibit restraint and work to maximize the flavor of the ingredients …..letting them standout versus becoming part of a muddled mess. Ina’s chowder delivered on this tenet and could only be enhanced by serving it with these darling mini soup biscuits. Just crush or crumble into your bowl and start digging for clams!

East Hampton Clam Chowder

East Hampton Clam Chowder

Ina Garten’s East Hampton Clam Chowder.

Slightly modified to preference. Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts and use store-bought chicken stock or dried thyme. It’s the limited ingredients and their quality that makes this soup so wonderful.

Ingredients

  • 12 TBSP (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 2 cups medium-diced celery (about 4 stalks)
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots (about 6 carrots)
  • 4 cups medium-diced boiling potatoes
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 quart clam juice
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup homemade chicken broth
  • 2 cups half-and-half, room temperature
  • 3 cups clams

Instructions

  1. Melt ½ stick butter in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot. I used a 6.75 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven. Throw in the onions and cook over medium-low heat until translucent (7-10 minutes).
  2. Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. Add the clam juice, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. In a small saucepan, make the roux. This isn’t technical; it just means you are cooking the flour so you don’t get a raw flour flavor in your soup. Melt the remaining stick of butter and whisk in the flour. Cook over very low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. It will transform into a beautiful golden hue. Whisk in a cup of the warm broth (if it is too hot it might become lumpy) and then add it to the soup. Simmer for a few minutes until the broth is thickened.
  5. Add the half and half and clams and gently reheat if you are using canned clams. If you have fresh clams, just simmer for a few minutes to cook them through.
  6. Taste for seasonings.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/11/15/like-father-like-son/

Notes:

1. You have three options for the 3 cups of clams.

If you are fortunate to live near a fish market you will be able to get these already shucked. If not, most groceries sell fresh clams that you can shuck yourself. If you go either of these routes it will be about 1 ½ lbs shucked chopped fresh chowder clams. You can use cherrystone or littleneck if you can’t find chowder/quahog clams. Finally, you can also use canned baby clams in water, which is what I ended up doing. I used three 10 oz cans which yielded exactly 3 cups; I was able to use the water to supplement my clam juice needs (it gives you about 1 ½ cups).

2. After opting for canned clams, I had persistent craving for fresh ones…..not to mention I’m partial to how enticing a few shells look bobbing in the soup. So, while the vegetables are simmering, steam some extra clams if you have time.

To prepare, first inspect the clams to be certain they are edible. They should give off a mild scent and the shells should be tightly closed. If the shell remains open after you give it a tap, discard the clam.

Soak the clams in the sink to clean while you prepare a brine to remove grit. Mix 1/3 cup of kosher salt (iodine will kill the clams) with a gallon of water and soak the clams in the mixture for about 15 minutes. Pour the clams into a strainer, rinse with cold water and scrub the shells.

Place the cleaned clams in a large pot with a cup of white wine, a few springs of thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Cover and turn the heat to high. Steam the clams for 3-10 minutes. As they pop remove them from the pot. If after 10 minutes some still haven’t opened, discard them. Watch your clams carefully; if you overcook them they will taste like rubber bands.

Put a few atop each bowl so the soup can seep in and coat the beauties. I put the remainder of the clams in a big bowl family style so everyone could pluck them out at will. And if you really want to give your guests (or yourself) a treat pour the cooking liquid through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. It will have developed into a light, delicate briny broth perfect for dunking bread. I reheat it so it’s slightly warmer than room temperature.

Mini Soup Biscuits

Adapted from the blog The Cooking of Joy.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, diced
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • Sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Work quickly in order to keep the temperature of your dough down. Combine dry ingredients in food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
  3. Add butter and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Add milk and briefly process until it starts to come together.
  5. Dump on to a floured surface and knead (only a little) to bring the dough together.
  6. Form into a round ball and chill for about 30 minutes.
  7. Divide the dough in half (leave the other half in the refrigerator) and roll to 1/8” thickness on a floured work surface.
  8. Prick the dough all over with a fork and cut the biscuits out with a small cookie cutter.
  9. Brush with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 TBSP water) and sprinkle with sea salt.
  10. Place the biscuits on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until light brown.
  11. If you are not going to enjoy them right away store in an airtight container once cool. Before enjoying, toast under the broiler for about 3 minutes on a baking sheet to crisp up.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/11/15/like-father-like-son/

 

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Happy Birthday Scotti!

Earlier this summer I had an awful bowl few spoonfuls of shrimp bisque. It was heavy, greasy, salty and lightly finished with the essence of shrimp. As a statement of fact, albeit self-proclaimed, I make the gold standard of shrimp bisque at home (thanks to Ina). So although I know what I like, I swear it wasn’t a case of being close minded. This interpretation truly belonged on a fast food buffet alongside the all-you-can-eat mac ‘n cheese and dingy iceberg lettuce. Besides my wasted $3.42 the resulting consequence was that I’ve been craving a redeeming bowl of shrimp bisque for some time now.

My friend’s birthday was last month and she invited Oliver and me to spend it with her at the family beach house along with two sweet little mermaids who call her mom.  Scotti is no ordinary friend. She is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris….really, need I say more? And even better than her food, is the privilege to have her as my personal culinary encyclopedia and her thoughtfulness in never making me feel inadequate as a home cook. Not to mention, she’s a quick-witted, feisty and appreciates good wine and a simple meal as much as I do. In fact, a few months ago, emboldened with a full-bodied red, we conquered homemade pasta (and some online bikini shopping!) while giving the kitchen a dusting of flour worthy of a first snow. Wine, and a fearless friend, helps you laugh at getting the settings on your pasta machine completely wrong.

At the beach and motivated by both the desire to erase that unfortunate market bisque from my memory and by the shrimp boats floating in the horizon, we found our sandy way to the fish market and loaded up on shrimp caught earlier that morning. Barefoot, we sautéed, deveined, chopped, pureed, toasted and tasted. Not surprisingly, Scotti’s eldest who will be three in the fall and has an uncanny affinity for smoked salmon, was a huge fan of our pink, sweet, shrimpy bisque.

You should know that Scotti is also my champagne friend. We don’t save it for special occasions other than just being together, but we also don’t make a regular habit of it. One, we drink the good stuff so it’s expensive and two, it goes directly to our heads making us giggle pusses with achy heads. But when its birthday weekend and you’ve just made a silky shrimp bisque, dry champagne is the perfect pairing to cut the richness of bisque. Happy Birthday Scotti!

Shrimp Bisque

Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook.

This soup is obviously an elegant first course, but I prefer it as the main event served alongside a light mixed green salad or as we did a Leek Gruyere Tart. Champagne is non-negotiable.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 cups of shrimp stock (I’ve also made this with homemade chicken stock and found it equally delicious.)
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP of chopped garlic
  • 2 cups of chopped leeks (about 3)
  • A few dashes of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup Cognac
  • ¼ cup dry sherry
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Trim the leeks so that you have only the white and light green parts, then slice in-half lengthwise and cut ¼” half moons. Rinse like crazy in a colander using your fingers to move them around and around to ensure all the dirt is removed.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat (I use a 6.75 quart Dutch oven).
  3. Add the leeks and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes until the leeks are wilted and tender. Be sure not to brown them or this will change the flavor of your bisque.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until beautifully fragrant.
  5. Add the shrimp and cayenne pepper and cook for 3 minutes stirring and turning the shrimp a few times. The shrimp will not be complelety cooked.
  6. Stir in the Cognac and cook for a minute.
  7. Add the dry sherry and cook for another 3 minutes. At this point you will be entranced by the aroma! The liquid should not have all evaporated and the shrimp will be brilliantly pink (cooked).
  8. Put the shrimp mixture in the food processor and coarsely puree, scraping down the sides once.
  9. Wipe out the Dutch oven with a paper towel and melt the butter over medium-low.
  10. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  11. Wisk in the half & half and stir until thickened. This will take anywhere from 3-5 minutes. If you have to ask yourself if it is thickened, it isn’t. You will actually feel a change in resistance against your spoon.
  12. Stir in the pureed shrimp, stock, tomato paste and salt and pepper. Pay special attention to the tomato paste to ensure it fully incorporates…..chunks of it are not pleasant.
  13. Reheat, check for seasonings and enjoy.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/09/05/happy-birthday-scotti/

Notes:

When shopping for shrimp consider “count” and unless you are coastal or have such a trusting relationship with your fishmonger that it borders on inappropriate always buy frozen. For obvious reasons, shrimp is generally frozen at sea, which means what you are purchasing from the counter has most likely been previously frozen and is now thawing in the case (getting chewy), therefore making the frozen shrimp a fresher option.

“Count” refers to the number of shrimp it takes to achieve a pound. So, the lower the count, the larger the shrimp and the fewer you need to make a pound. Generally, larger shrimp are tastier. “21-25 count” is a good choice for this bisque and is pretty standard.

Shrimp Stock

Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • Shrimp shells from a pound of shrimp
  • 2 cups of chopped yellow onions
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 ½ quarts filtered water
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium. Add the shrimp shells, onions, carrots and celery and sauté for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add 1 ½ quarts of filtered water, wine, tomato paste, salt and thyme.
  4. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  5. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. You can use immediately, however, I like to refrigerate mine overnight and skim off any solidified fats.
  6. This yields about 1 quart.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/09/05/happy-birthday-scotti/

Leek Gruyere Tart

Adapted from The Local Palate.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie crust dough (I’m partial to Cooks Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough)
  • 2 TBSP oil
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks
  • 1 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated gruyere
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Trim the leeks so that you have only the white and light green parts, then thinly slice. Rinse like crazy in a colander using your fingers to move them around and around to ensure all the dirt is removed.
  3. Line a 9-inch tart pan with your favorite pie dough and poke all over with a fork. Place a sheet of foil over the crust and fill will dried beans or pie weights. Bake for about 20 minutes until the dough is set then remove the foil and beans and bake for another 10 minutes until golden. Set it aside to cool and reduce the oven to 325 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile in a sauté pan heat the olive oil and butter over medium. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the leeks and stir to blend with the fats. Stir in ½ tsp of salt.
  5. After about 10 minutes, add a few drops of water to the mustard to loosen it up and then add it to the leeks and stir to blend well. Continue cooking the leeks for another 10-15 minutes until they are wilted and tender.
  6. Whisk the eggs and cream with a ½ tsp salt and pepper each in a small bowl.
  7. Sprinkle the cheese over the tart shell and scatter the leeks on top. It will look like you have too many leeks.
  8. Pour the egg mixture over the leeks, sprinkle with thyme and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the center of the filling is set. You should also see random golden spots on the tart.
  9. Let the tart stand for 5 -10 minutes before serving.
  10. Enjoy with Shrimp Bisque and Champagne!
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/09/05/happy-birthday-scotti/

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Avocado Crab Soup

This weekend we are basking at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Our friends are away and have generously offered up their gorgeous, well-equipped coastal retreat for our express pleasure and relaxation!!!! My husband has been enduring a relentless travel schedule for his business, so this respite will be just what he needs if I can hide the laptop and throw away the key.

With our priorities shifting and sunset approaching, he tackled margaritas and I managed to make some guacamole in between alternating mouthfuls of avocado chunks and tortilla chips. I’m still baffled how something that decadent can be so good for you. So because of this and their versatility, I just can’t get enough. Smeared on the egg sandwich, slivered alongside tomatoes in a caprese salad, diced in a citrusy relish for grilled fish or chicken, even by itself with a little olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper…..but soup? Nope. Nadda. Not going there. I’ve been curious, but always kept a safe distance. In reflection, I don’t think I wanted my beloved avocado to fall from its pedestal should the soup yield an uninteresting bowl of baby food.  But like time, geography can change everything.

 

Because the Outer Banks is synomous with fishing, it lures throngs of recreational anglers and houses generations of tanned, sea-crusted locals who have been working the waters to spoil the rest of us with shrimp, fish, clams and of course the prized crab. That tender, succulent, sweet, blue crab…….

 

A few days after the great guacamole feast, we passed Daniel’s Crab Shack and I realized that the days of my avocado soup drought were over. Billowing, briny tender clouds of crab were rolling in and soon would be floating in a cool green ocean…..I imagined them like little edible icebergs in the frozen Arctic. I was sure I’d seen a recipe somewhere that called for a heaping mound of lump crab as an acclaimed “perfect garnish”. So I waded through my very swollen “need-to-make-soup-recipe-folder” (never leave home without it) and found what I was looking for. Actually I found about 10 avocado soup recipes (told you I was curious) so following is a somewhat original recipe that I promise will make you a believer as well.  It’s very rich which makes it an impressive starter.  Next time (because there will be a next time!)  I’m going to make it as part of a soup flight, maybe alongside gazpacho and a corn vichysoisse. The colors would be beautiful!

Avocado Crab Soup

Avocado Crab Soup

Using a blender to puree the ingredients incorporates air into the soup giving it a thick, creamy texture- almost fluffy.

Ingredients

  • 3 small avocados
  • 2 TBSP crème fraiche
  • 4 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup medium-diced English cucumber
  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock (add more if you like a thinner consistency)
  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate overnight (minimum of 6 hours) to allow the flavors to meld. Serve with a healthy garnish of Crab Mango Garnish.
  2. Crab Mango Garnish
  3. 2 cups of lump crab
  4. 4 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  5. 2 mangos, medium-diced
  6. Juice of 2 lemons
  7. Juice of 1 orange
  8. 1 tsp kosher salt
  9. 1 red jalepeno, cored, seeded and finely minced
  10. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/07/29/avocado-crab-soup/

 

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