Herbfarm Oyster & Salsify Chowder With Lemon Thyme and Espelette Pepper


Oysters were enjoyed at the first Thanksgiving. When you taste this soup, you'll agree there are few things more comforting, silky, and deliciously intriguing.

This is truly a harvest dish, as the ingredients only come into their own when the weather changes. Salsify is also known as "oyster plant." Its distinctive flavor hits just the right notes.

As the weather cools and the salsify matures in the fields, the oysters are fattening up. It is one of the last times we get to use lemon thyme for the year. The esplette pepper we use in this preparation is one of my favorite ingredients, too. In addition to the imported version, espelette is grown locally and has a mild, sweet spice with just the right amount of kick.


This Recipe Serves 4

Ingredients

• 1 pound salsify (black or white varieties)
• 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar mixed into 2 quarts of cold water
• 3 ribs celery, diced small
• 2 cups Walla Walla onion, diced small
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled
• 1/2 cup dry white wine, not too oaky, such as pinot gris or sauvignon blanc
• 1/2 cup cream
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 2½ quarts smoked ham hock stock (or chicken stock will work just fine)
• 12 oysters - Around Seattle, Taylor Shellfish's Virginicas are great. But so are are Hama Hamas (Hama Hama also sells their oysters pre-shucked).
• 1 teaspoon espelette pepper powder (or substitute chili flakes)
• 2 tablespoons whole lemon thyme leaves (or English thyme, or chopped celery leaves with a bit of grated lemon peel)
• Salt to taste

Preparation

Peel the salsify root and immediately placing it into the water, otherwise it will brown. After it is all peeled, chop it into a half inch dice and return to the water.

To start the soup, melt the butter in a 4 quart stock pot. Add the onion, celery, garlic, salsify and a good pinch of salt, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender but not browned (add water as needed to keep from coloring). Add the wine and continue to cook uncovered until the wine has reduced by 2/3rds. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Simmer for 10 minutes, add cream, and simmer another 10 minutes.

While it is simmering, shuck the oysters, saving their liquor but discarding the shells. When 20 minutes of simmering has passed, transfer the soup to a blender and gradually work the speed of the blender up to high. Blend the soup for a full minute or until the soup is silky smooth.

Transfer back to the pot and bring to a simmer, add the oysters, their liquor, and lemon thyme. Simmer another 2 minutes (no more, or the oysters will overcook!), then ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with a light sprinkling of espelette pepper.

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Recipe by Chef Chris Weber/The Herbfarm Restaurant/Woodinville, Washington 98072 USA

The Herbfarm is America's only 5-Diamond Restaurant North of San Francisco and West of Chicago. From our farm to the nightly table since 1986.