Last week, Jan really liked the za’atar corn I made and as I was thinking about a weekday meal I suggested that I could add that spice blend to my seafood chowder. She said that if I did, I should also used yogurt—instead if cream—in the dish. So I did.
This chowder started out pretty much as my mother, Claudia, would have made it—canned clams, a jar of clam juice and diced celery and potatoes. Over the years, I have added vegetables, tweaked amount and variety of the seafood, and struggled with producing the most flavorful and creamy broth. Besides the wild introduction of za’atar and yogurt this time, I have also added some Consome de Cameron.
I have discovered that I cannot make my seafood chowder in a single pot. I like to reduce the amount of cream I am forced to use by blending the vegetables and potatoes into a smooth puree. However, I still like the texture of chunks of potato and seafood in the final dish. When I tried to add the raw fish and second batch of potatoes to the blended soup it made a hot, splatter-y, undercooked mess. The solution was to use two pots, one for the blended soup base and a second for the chunky bits.
Karl’s Middle Eastern Seafood Chowder
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 leek, white parts only, quartered lengthwise and sliced finely
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs. za’atar
32 oz. low sodium fish stock
1 Russet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 jar (8 oz.) clam juice
1 Tbs. Consome de Cameron
2 cans, minced clams
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, ½ inch diced
½ lb. bay scallops
1 cup plain yogurt
½ tsp. black pepper, to taste
1. Melt butter over a medium high heat in a large soup pot.
2. Sauté the onions and celery with the salt until they are well softened, about five minutes.
3. Add the leeks and continue sautéing for five more minutes.
4. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pot and add the chopped garlic to the hole in the center.
5. Sauté the garlic until it is fragrant, about one minute, and then stir in the vegetables.
6. Add the za’atar, fish stock, and the diced Russet potatoes.
Tip: Reserve about a quarter of the fish stock to rinse out the blender. After the soup is cooked you will be processing it to a puree in a standing blender or if you prefer a more chunky version an immersion blender.
Note: Whether you peel the potatoes or not is a personal choice. I peeled the Russet potato, because I was using it mainly as a thickening starch. For the diced Yukon Gold potatoes, I left the skin on for the vitamins and rustic appearance
7. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Tip: Until the potatoes are cooked through.
8. While the soup is simmering, shell the shrimp and place the shells in a dry medium pot.
Note: Reserve the shrimp meat for later. If you wish you may cut them into smaller pieces.
9. Toast the shrimp shells, over a medium high heat, until they pink, 3-4 minutes.
10. Add jar of clam juice, the Consome de Cameron, and drain the clam juice from the cans of minced clams to the shrimp pot.
Tip: You will be adding the clams later. I half open the cans and use the lid to keep the clam meat in the cans.
11. Simmer the shrimp shells, covered, for 10-15 minutes.
12. Strain the shrimp shells out the broth.
Note: The consome de cameron is mostly ground up shrimp. After I used a sieve to remove the shells, I strained the broth again with a fine meshed tea strainer to remove the sand-like bits of shrimp.
13. Add the diced Yukon potatoes to the pot and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until almost cooked through.
14. While the Yukon potatoes are simmering, remove first pot of soup from the heat and cool it slightly.
15. Briefly process the soup in a standing blender until smooth.
Tip: Use the reserved fish broth to rinse out the blender jar.
16. Return the soup to the large pot and add the clams and the Yukon potatoes.
Tip: Scoop the potatoes out of the medium pot with a slotted spoon.
Note: You will be using the broth in the medium pot to cook the shrimp and scallops.
17. Simmer the contents of the large soup for 10 more minutes.
18. Add the shrimp and scallops to the medium pot, simmering them for five minutes more.
19. Stir the contents of the medium pot into the large soup pot.
20. Stir in the yogurt and continue heating, stirring, until the soup has fully reheated, about two minutes.
Tip: Once you add the yogurt you will want to bring the soup up to serving temperature, but you do not want the pot to come to a boil.
21. Add the black pepper to taste and add more salt and/or za’atar, if it is needed.
22. Serve with a small green salad, oyster crackers, and/or crusty bread on the side.
Tip: You may garnish with a dollop of yogurt if you wish.