12 April 2010

Scallop, Leek and Mushroom Chowder

Rainy weather is soup weather. Even though it's supposed to be wonderful weather in Santa Barbara, apparently it rains on Sunday nights. So, time for soup!

I'd picked up some oyster mushrooms at the farmer's market because I am a big fan of wild mushrooms, but I'm too afraid for my safety to go mushroom hunting myself. I think the oyster mushrooms gave the soup a really good flavor that went well with the scallops, but I'm sure you can use any mushroom variety. My friend really wanted to have leeks in the soup. We are an indecisive bunch and it took a while for me to figure out that we should just make a creamy chowder. I think this soup came out really well, and it was all devoured so I think everyone else thought so, too!

I wanted to make it thick, so I started with a roux. It didn't really get very thick though. I didn't use too much flour because I didn't want it to be tooooo thick like a gravy or anything. I have a feeling if this soup had rested it might have thickened up but we ate it all immediately, so who knows. If you want it thicker, then you should use more flour/butter than I suggested in this recipe, but if you don't, then who cares!

The scallops were kind of an afterthought but I think they were really important to the flavor. You could of course vegetarianize this by not adding scallops, but I think if you did this, you'd want to add another vegetable (maybe carrots or something sort of sweet?) and/or a few more spices.

1 large potato, peeled, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, sliced into thin (~1/8 inch) rounds
1 shallot, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups mushrooms (I used 1/2 oyster and 1/2 crimini), diced into small pieces
1 tsp thyme
1/2 cup sherry (keep the bottle around, you may want to add more)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups milk (I suggest using at least 2%)
1 tsp ginger
1 lb bay scallops (the small ones), cut into small bite size pieces if you prefer
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft, about 5 minutes.
2. In a large pan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and shallot and cook, stirring, until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant. Add mushrooms and thyme and stir until the mushrooms are soft but not browned. (At any point in this step, if the pan is looking too dry, add a little oil or water to make sure things don't stick!) Add sherry and stir until the sherry is reduced to about half.
3. In a large soup pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until it is fully mixed in and becomes a paste. My soup wasn't as thick as I'd wanted it to be, so you might want to start with more flour/butter, but I suggest using equal amounts of both.
4. Slowly add the stock to the roux. You want to make sure it mixes in fully and doesn't get lumpy.
5. Then add the milk and stir to mix fully.
6. Add the mushroom/leek mixture, making sure to scrape out all of the sherry glaze on the pan.
7. Add ginger, salt and pepper to taste. Keep it undersalted a little bit for now. You can add a little more sherry if you want at this point. This will give a rich, sweet taste. You want to add sherry before the next step (boiling) so the alcohol has time to cook off.
8. Bring the soup to a boil. Once it is boiling, add the scallops and boil for 3 minutes. The scallops shouldn't need more time than that, but test one to make sure it's done before serving!
9. Stir in the potatoes and add more salt, pepper and cayenne pepper as desired. I think creamy soups taste great with a strong bite of cayenne.
10. Serve! Garnish with more cayenne if you'd like. This soup goes well with Heather's family recipe bread.

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