Roasted Corn Chowder with Scallops and Bacon

originally published Oct. 11, 2009

Roasted sweet corn with poblano peppers, onions, seared scallops and smoked bacon..

Roasted Corn Chowder with Scallops and Bacon

Roasted Corn Chowder with Scallops and Bacon

(informed by a recipe by Rick Bayless)

3 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
1/2 small white onion
1/2 large poblano chile
1 red Fresno chile
1 clove garlic
1 cup fresh whole milk
1 cup fresh cream
6 oz dry sea scallops
4 oz smoked bacon, diced
1 teaspoon cultured butter
1/4 teaspoon smoked chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Roast the poblano, Fresno, onion, garlic and 1/2 of the corn in a 450 degree oven until the peppers are blackened.  Place the peppers in a paper bag or under an inverted bowl to steam a bit- the skins will peel right off.

Pulse the uncooked corn in a blender with the milk, cream and smoked chili powder, then transfer to a heavy pot set over medium-low heat.  Stirring frequently, allow to simmer until reduced by 1/4.

Chop the roasted peppers, onion and garlic and add to the pan.  Stir to combine.

Meanwhile, sauté diced bacon over medium-high heat until well browned.  Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of fat and add 1 teaspoon butter, paprika and cilantro.  Add the scallops and sear until golden brown on both sides.  Transfer to the soup, stir to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper if necessary and serve steaming hot.


Choux de Bruxelles Gratiné

Tender baby Brussels sprouts get the royal treatment.. pan-roasted in bacon fat with onions and lightly drizzled with champagne vinegar, then bathed in seasoned Béchamel and topped with shredded Cantal entre deux, hickory-smoked bacon and fresh breadcrumbs with parsley..

For the Béchamel

2-1/2 cups fresh, whole milk
2 ounces cold roux blanc (recipe follows)
a pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg
fine sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan until simmering, then whisk in bits of roux one at a time, incorporating each one before adding the next.  This will help to ensure that the sauce is creamy and without lumps. Add the nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

For the Roux Blanc

3 ounces organic flour (can use soaked or sprouted flour if desired)
2 ounces clarified butter or ghee

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat then whisk in the flour. Continue whisking and cooking until past the raw flour taste and completely smooth in texture, maybe 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

For the Brussels Sprouts

1 pound baby Brussels sprouts
6 thick slices uncured, hickory-smoked bacon
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

Rinse the Brussels sprouts in cold water, then peel off the outermost layer of leaves and trim off the stem. Split the larger sprouts in half lengthwise, leaving the smallest ones whole.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet until well-browned and crisp, then transfer to the side to drain and pour of all but about 1 tablespoon of the the fat.

Add  the Brussels sprouts and butter to the pan and cook until the cut edges begin to brown.  Add the onion and continue to cook, stirring often until the onions are brown and the Brussels sprout are crisp/tender, maybe 8 minute. Remove from heat, add vinegar and toss to coat.

Use a slotted spoon the transfer the cooked vegetables to a casserole dish and pour the béchamel over the top.

Add a layer of shredded Cantal, then arrange bacon pieces over the top.

Add a light layer of fresh breadcrumbs and chopped parsley.

Place casserole in a 375 degree oven and cook until brown and bubbling, about 15 minutes.  Serve hot.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Plump, briny cherrystone clams from the cold waters of the Northern Atlantic, in a spicy, clear broth of clam juice, crushed tomatoes, sauteed celery, onions and garlic, red pepper flakes, bacon, parsley, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  A true classic..

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Manhattan Clam Chowder (adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart)

3 cups filtered water
2 dozen cherrystone clams, scrubbed (about 2 cups clam meat)
5 slices non-smoked, thick-cut bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 jar (28 ounces) whole organic plum tomatoes, strained, juices reserved, tomatoes finely chopped
1 Kennebec or Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh celery leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring water to a boil in a large pot.  Add clams, cover, and cook until shells open, about 10 minutes.  Transfer clams to a large bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Discard any clams that do not open.  Remove meat from shells, and return to bowl.  Discard shells.  Pour reserved liquid through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth into a large bowl (you should have 2 1/2 cups).  Sprinkle a few tablespoons liquid over clams to keep them moist.

Heat a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add bacon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 7 minutes.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.  Pour off excess drippings, leaving just enough to coat bottom of pot.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and reduce heat to medium.  Add onion, celery, garlic, and red-pepper flakes, and cook, scraping bottom of pot, until vegetables are light gold, about 7 minutes.

Raise heat to high, and stir in tomatoes, 1 cup reserved tomato juice, 2 1/2 cups reserved clam broth, and the potato.  Reduce heat, and simmer until potato is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Cut large clams in half.  Stir clams, bacon, parsley, and oregano into broth, and heat until warmed through, about 30 seconds.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Manhattan clam chowder has clear broth, plus tomato for red color and flavor.  In the 1890s, this chowder was called “New York clam chowder” and “Fulton Fish Market clam chowder.”  Clam chowder, in its cream-based New England version, has been around since the mid-18th century.  Many restaurants in northern Rhode Island sell both red and white chowders, while the southern coast favors clear and white chowders.

The addition of tomatoes in place of milk was initially the work of Portuguese immigrants in Rhode Island, as tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine.  Scornful New Englanders called this modified version “Manhattan-style” clam chowder. –Wikipedia

Pan-roasted Quail with Black Fig/Bacon Demi-glace over Piccolo Farrotto

Pastured quail from Bandera, Texas are dry-brined with sea salt containing sage, rosemary and black pepper, then allowed to air dry in the refrigerator for two hours.  The quail is quickly pan-roasted in a small spoonful each of rendered bacon fat and rendered chicken fat until the skin is crisp and the flesh is slightly pink.  Served over a bed of stock-simmered farro with roasted vegetables, and topped with a chicken demi-glace with black figs, bacon and roasted spring onion..

Pan-roasted Quail with Black Fig/Bacon Demi-glace over Piccolo Farrotto

For the Sauce (about 1 cup)

1-1/2 cups rich, homemade chicken stock, divided
2 tablespoons roasted chicken demi-glace
1/3 cup black figs, trimmed and quartered
4 pieces thick cut, smoked bacon
roasted spring onions (from the Farro recipe), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon pan drippings (from the quail)
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, stripped and bruised

Heat the chicken stock in a skillet over medium-low heat until simmering.  Add the demi-glace, stir to combine and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and cook until nicely browned.  Transfer bacon to the side to drain, reserving the bacon fat for the next recipe.

Just before service, add the bacon, figs, rosemary and onion and allow to heat through, about 5 minutes.

For the Piccolo Farrotto (adapted from a recipe by Anson Mills)

1 cup farro piccolo
1 quart rich, homemade chicken stock
2-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 fresh bay leaf
2 stalks fresh celery
4 small, fresh carrots, trimmed
2 small spring onions, trimmed (reserved)
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Roast the carrots, celery and onion in a 375 degree oven until browned, about 45 minutes. Set aside.

Turn the farro into a food processor and give it ten 1-second pulses to crack some of the bran that encases the grains. Transfer it to a small bowl.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and keep the stock just below a simmer as you cook the farro.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 3- or 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the minced shallots and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the farro, increase the heat to medium, and stir until the grains are hot and coated with butter, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced to a glaze. Add the bay leaf and 1 cup of hot chicken stock and stir once to make sure the grains are covered with liquid. Cook the farro uncovered at the barest simmer; when the liquid has been almost entirely absorbed and the farro begins to look dry, add about 1/2 cup of hot stock, stir once, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the farro once again begins to look dry. Continue to cook the farro in this fashion for 1 hour. Coarsley chop and stir in the celery and carrot and continue to cook, adding stock as needed, until the grains have expanded and are tender throughout, without hard, starchy centers, about 20 minutes longer.

Stir in the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. The farrotto should look creamy, not wet or soupy. Taste for seasoning, stir in the parsley, and serve immediately.

For the Quail (serves 4-6)

12 skin-on, boneless quail breasts
2 tablespoons more-or-less sea salt, black pepper and aromatics such as rosemary and sage
2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat
2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat

Season the quail on all sides with the salt mixture then place skin-side up on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Remove from refrigerator and allow to stand 20 minutes at room temperature.

Heat the bacon and chicken fats over medium in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Blot the quail breasts dry, then place into the skillet skin-side down without crowding. You may need to do this in batches.  Allow to cook until nicely browned, then turn and cook until almost medium doneness.

To assemble

Spoon piccolo farroto onto dinner plates and arrange quail breasts on top (2-3 per person, depending).  Spoon demi-glace over the top, garnish with a piece of rosemary and serve piping hot.

Heirloom Yellow Hominy with Roasted Tomatoes, Bacon and Chipotle Crema

A Northerner tells a waitress that he wants to order grits.  “Hominy, sir?”  the waitress asks.  “Oh, about four or five,” replies the confused customer..

Hominy with Roasted Tomatoes, Bacon and Chipotle Crema

Heirloom yellow hominy corn is nixtamalized, then simmered until the kernels have popped and become tender.  The cooked corn is cooled by being rubbed between your palms under cold running water, with the pericarp (the skin that gets stuck in your teeth when you eat corn on the cob) being left behind.  The corn is then set aside until ready to use.

To prepare the dish, slowly fry diced bacon on a cast iron comal or in a heavy skillet until all the fat has rendered and the bacon is very crisp.  Remove the bacon to the side to drain, and pour off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Roast a plum tomato or two in a very hot oven until blistered, then remove and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, return the comal to the stove and add half a chopped yellow onion and a diced Poblano pepper and saute until lightly browned.  Add hominy and garlic and cook until vegetables are nicely browned.  Dice the roasted tomatoes and add to the pan with some fresh minced garlic, chili powder, a little filtered water and some oregano (Mexican preferred).  Allow to simmer, stirring often until the sauce begins to tighten, about 5 minutes.

Pour hominy into serving bowls, dress with reserved bacon, fresh cilantro and chipotle crema and serve immediately.