“fond” of chowder
Connor is home this weekend from NAU and requested Clam Chowder for dinner tonight. OK, the high today is supposed to be 87 degrees, but if my boy wants chowder, chowder it will be!
Traditionally, bacon is used to start the chowder, but I have a boatload of pancetta in my freezer, I will begin with that. Once the pancetta has rendered its fat and is crisp, most of the fat is discarded, only 1 tablespoon will be used to sear the scallops. The scallops are removed and what remains in the pan is called the “fond”. In French, fond means “base”. Fond refers to the browned and caramelized bits of meat or vegetables stuck to the bottom of a pan after sautéing. Traditional cookware is best for developing a decent fond. Non-stick coatings tend to inhibit its development. After the meat is browned, it is removed from the pan and excess fat is discarded. Generally, aromatics such as onion, garlic, or shallots are sautéed, then a liquid such as stock, alcohol, fruit juice, or even water (or as world-famous Chef Jacques Pépin calls it ” l’eau du sink “) is used to deglaze the pan and loosen the fond from the pan to become “one” with the dish. The fond is the base for a great sauce, or in this case, a great chowder. Since I mentioned Jacques Pépin, I’m adding one of my favorite pictures of the two of us at the end of this post, as a bonus.
You may already know how clam juice is sold in the grocery store…in little 8-ounce bottles that cost at least $2 each. And minced clams are in little cans that are also overpriced. So instead, go to Smart & Final, if you live in Arizona, California, or Nevada. The 28-ounce can of clams cost $3.65 and a 46-ounce can of clam juice runs only $3.39… less than you would pay for only 16 ounces at the grocery store. Even though you don’t need all 46-ounces, it’s still a bargain. I pour what I have left into muffin tins (each holds about 1/4 cup) and freeze, then pop out into freezer ziplock bags, label and freeze for the next time I’m serving fish. I’ll pull out a frozen cube and use it to deglaze the pan for the next great sauce. If you live where there is no Smart and Final, check your Costco or Sam’s Club for the best value.
Connor’s Scallop and Clam Chowder
4 ounces of pancetta or bacon, diced
12 ounces sea scallops, quartered and thoroughly dried
1 leek, white and light green parts only, chopped and well washed
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1 fennel bulb, chopped and well washed
1 celery stalk, chopped and well washed
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons dry Sherry, divided
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound unpeeled baby potatoes or 1/2 pound unpeeled russet, cut into 1-inch cubes
28-ounce can minced clams, drained and juices reserved
4 to 5 cups additional clam juice
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups fat free half-and-half
2 cups frozen petite white corn kernels, thawed
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Cook the pancetta slowly in a large pot over medium heat until crisp, about 12 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove pancetta to a paper towel to drain. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered pancetta fat. Season the dry scallop with salt and pepper and sear over medium-high heat on all sides. Take care to leave plenty of space between the pieces and do not attend to turn over until they release from the pan, they will release when the are browned Remove to a plate and set aside.
Add the leek, shallot, fennel, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Remove vegetables to a bowl with a slotted spoon Turn up heat to high and add 1/4 cup of the sherry to the pan to deglaze. Continue to cook until the liquid is syrupy, return the vegetables to the pan and stir in the flour; cook over low heat, stirring for 4 minutes, to cook the raw taste out of the flour.
Stir in the reserved clam juice drained from the clams and 4 additional cups, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, add more clam juice to adjust the consistency. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and potatoes and simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the clams, cream, and half-in-half in a medium saucepan and simmer until the clams are cooked through, about 6 minutes.
When the potatoes are tender, add the seared scallops along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate, the clam/cream mixture and thawed corn kernels to the pot. Simmer for 3 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons sherry and fresh dill. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Ladle into large bowls, sprinkle with pancetta pieces and serve immediately with the oyster crackers on the side.
Serves 8 to 10