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Oyster Chowder with Saffron Creme


For the saffron cream:

¼ cup white wine

Pinch of saffron threads

1 cup crème fraîche

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the homemade oyster crackers:

1¼ cups flour, plus more for dusting

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup unsalted butter, diced and well chilled

4 tablespoons (about ¼ cup) ice-cold water

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Kosher salt to taste

For the oyster chowder:

¼ cup peanut oil

¼ cup finely diced bacon

6 tablespoons flour

1 cup finely diced onion

1 cup finely diced carrots

1 cup finely diced celery

1 cup finely diced leeks

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

4 cups clam juice or fish stock

2 cups heavy cream

1½ cups finely diced potatoes

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pints shucked oysters and their liquor

Saffron cream (recipe above)

1 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Homemade oyster crackers (recipe above)


Make the saffron cream:
  1. Heat white wine and saffron in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until reduced by half, to about 2 tablespoons. Remove from heat and cool. Discard saffron threads.
  2. Whisk reduced wine into crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (Makes 1 cup) 
For the homemade oyster crackers:
  1. Sift together flour and salt into a medium bowl and stir in the pepper. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut butter to flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring just until the mixture begins to stick together and form a dough.
  2. Turn out dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a small disk, wrapping tightly. Chill for at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place dough on a well-floured work surface. Roll until dough is almost paper-thin, sprinkling additional flour as needed to keep from sticking. Dough should be thin but not tearing.
  4. Use a 1½-inch round cutter to punch out circles out of dough. Use a spatula to transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Do not re-roll dough scraps, as it will make tough crackers.
  5. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush egg wash over tops of crackers, then sprinkle with salt.
  6. Bake crackers until slightly puffed and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully toward the end of baking time as crackers will begin to brown quickly. Remove from oven and cool completely on a baking sheet. (Makes about 80 crackers)
For the chowder: 
  1. Heat peanut oil in a medium stockpot over medium-low heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy, 5 to 8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, just until roux begins to turn a light golden color, about 5 minutes. (Be careful not to let it burn or get too dark.)
  2. Add onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in clam juice or fish stock, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cream and potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Stir in oysters and their liquor and cook, stirring, just until oysters are heated through, about 30 seconds,. Remove from the heat.
  3. Spoon into warmed soup bowls and garnish each with a couple tablespoons of saffron cream and a teaspoon of chives. Serve warm with homemade oyster crackers.
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