Oyster Chowder

March 1, 2007

Oyster Chowder
Varietal: Chardonnay (Oaked)

Serves 4 as an entrée; 8 as an appetizer
Pure Northwest comfort food is created when fresh oysters and potato chunks swim together in a rich, creamy chowder. It’s the perfect dish for a gray, rainy day, when all you want to do is curl up by the fireplace with a warm blanket and a good book. This recipe pairs well with an oaky Chardonnay that has a creamy texture and silky mouthfeel. Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay fits the bill; it’s one of the most affordable and consistent wines you’ll find on Northwest wine shelves.

One 10-ounce jar freshly shucked oysters
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, about 3/4 pound, white part only, cleaned and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup diced (1/2-inch) white or yellow onion
2 or 3 Russet (baking) potatoes, about 1 pound, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups homemade vegetable or chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 cups whole or lowfat (2-percent) milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper
Ground sweet paprika, for garnish

1. Drain the oysters through a fine-meshed sieve placed over a bowl. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the oyster liquid.
2. In a stockpot or Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the oysters and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until they plump, turning once during cooking time. Remove the pan from the heat and put the oysters and any juice that accumulates in a small bowl. Cover, refrigerate, and reserve.
3. Return the pan to medium heat and melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add the leek, onion, and potatoes and cook 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the vegetables to brown. Add the stock, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
4. Place half the soup in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Return to the stockpot along with the oyster liquid, half-and-half, milk, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir until well blended. Add the reserved oysters and accumulated juice and stir gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Warm the chowder over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, just until oysters are warmed through.
5. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and sprinkle with paprika.

Recipe reprinted from Inside the Pike Place Market: Exploring America’s Favorite Farmers’ Market (Sasquatch Books, 1997)