There comes a time during the dark days of the first months of the year, when every chef feels the need to break out and do something different while still meeting the diners’ need for something warm and filling.
Virginia’s cider clam chowder just might be the answer. A forgotten classic from colonial times, its special ingredient is hard cider, something never, no never, to be found in more puritanic New England’s clam chowder.
Cider Clam Chowder
- ½ pound smoky bacon, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- ¼ cup diced celery
- ¼ cup diced fennel
- ½ cup hard apple cider
- 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
- ¼ teaspoon celery seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 pint shucked Taylor Oysters, liquor drained and set aside
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Dash of hot sauce
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ½teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced chives, plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
- Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat.
- Cook bacon until crisp and browned, 4-5 minutes.
- Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.
- Add butter, onions, celery and fennel to pan.
- Cook until vegetables begin to soften and look translucent, 4-5 minutes.
- Deglaze pan with cider, scraping up any browned bits.
- Continue to cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
- Add potatoes, celery seeds, oyster liquor, milk, cream, thyme and bay leaf.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes – Do NOT boil.
- Remove bay leaf and thyme, and discard.
- Add crisp bacon and raw oysters to pot, then immediately remove from heat.
- The Oysters will cook in residual heat from the stew; making soft and creamy, not rubbery)
- To serve, stir in hot sauce, lemon juice, white pepper, chives and salt to taste.
- Add more salt as needed.
- Garnish with more chives.
- Serve immediately and ....Save the Day!