Mussel and bacon chowder

Stephen Harris

Stephen Harris

27th September 2017

Mussel and bacon chowder

Mussels should be alive when you cook them and can be roasted, steamed, smoked, boiled, roasted, barbequed or pan-fried - Why not give the following mussel and bacon chowder recipe a try yourself? This recipe came about because I wanted to find a way of using our homemade bacon without making a big deal of it. I loved the idea that customers would order the soup without thinking the bacon was anything special, and then they’d be taken by surprise – just as I was the first time I tasted it. The bacon’s sweet maple cure, along with the dry-salting, makes quite an impression, even in such small amounts as are used here. I love the mussel stock in moules marinière and although we initially used this for the chowder I felt the warm alcohol flavour was not welcome. We changed to cooking the mussels just in plain water, and the soup was perfect. The scallop roe powder adds an intriguing acid-umami element.Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 kg/2 lb 4 oz mussels, scrubbed and ‘beards’ removed 

  • 4 slices Maple-Cured Bacon [pp. 150] 

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled 

  • 100 g/3 oz (½ cup) butter 

  • 4 leeks, finely chopped 

  • sea salt 

  • 250 ml/8 oz (1 cup) crème fraîche, plus extra to serve 

  • 2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (we use leftover soda bread) 

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives 

  • Scallop roe powder [see below] to serve (optional) 

  • Scallop roe powder:
  • Makes 3 tablespoons
  • Ingredients
  • 12 scallop roes
  • Smoked red pepper powder or Espelette pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ascorbic acid, to taste

Method

Start by cooking the mussels. Measure 200 ml/7 oz (scant 1 cup) of water into a large pan and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover the pan and cook for around 3 minutes, or until all the shells have opened (discard any that refuse to open). Leave the mussels in the pan to cool, then strain the stock into a bowl and set aside. Remove the mussel meat from the shells and set aside.
Pan-fry the bacon slices until golden, then remove from the heat, allow to cool and cut into batons. Reserve with the mussel meat.
Cook the potatoes in boiling water until soft, then drain.
To prepare the soup, combine the butter and leeks in a large pan and add a splash of water and a pinch of salt. Cook over a medium heat until the leeks are soft, but still bright green. If the water evaporates entirely, add another splash.
Break the potato up roughly and add it to the pan. Pour in enough of the reserved mussel stock to cover the vegetables by around 5 cm/2 inches. Top up with water, if necessary. Cook vigorously for 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour into a blender. Blitz until smooth, then add the crème fraîche and blitz again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You are aiming for the smooth thickness of a good winter soup, so if too thick, adjust with a little milk.
To serve, divide the reserved mussel meat and bacon among warmed soup bowls. Pour on the hot soup (which will heat them sufficiently) and finish with a sprinkling of chopped chives and breadcrumbs, a small dollop of crème fraîche and a scattering of scallop roe powder, if using.
Scallop roe powder:
To make the scallop roe powder, put the roes into a dehydrator and dry overnight at 75oC/165oF. It may take longer to achieve the required crisp texture. Transfer to a coffee grinder and blitz to a powder. Sieve to remove any resistant larger bits.
The next stage requires a bit of tasting and judgement on your part. Add some chilli powder – start with around 20% of the volume of scallop roe powder. You want to be able to tell that it is there, but without overpowering the flavour of the roe. Now season with salt to taste and add enough ascorbic acid to give a bit of tanginess.

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