As mentioned, I consider January to be food bowl month. So I will end the month with an ambitious slow cooker.
I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit of a project.
But hey, since many of us are housebound and holed up, why not roll up our sleeves and have some fun with this recipe?
I’m a huge fan of chowders and cioppinos, as you may have noticed, and I created this recipe with the deliberate intention of layering a stew with big bites, flavors, and textures. It is winter, after all, which is the season for layering: layers of clothing, layers of bedding, and layers of nourishing ingredients in our meals.
This stew is the sum of its parts. Each ingredient stands out, yet complements the whole, with a balance of sweetness, smoke, heat and brine. Each ingredient is processed separately before uniting in the jar, taking care to avoid flabby confusion.
Slices of smoked chorizo are browned first for char and flavor, then set aside to prevent softening and dullness of color from overcooking in the soup. Their legacy – the savory oil – stays in the pot to infuse the stew with heat and smoke. Planks of butternut squash are then sautéed in oil to lightly caramelize and bring out their sweetness. They too are set aside and added at the end, to avoid becoming mushy while preserving their brilliant saffron color.
The stock continues to grow with the usual suspects (herbs, wine, tomato), then the clams are added. As the clams simmer, their shells crack open, releasing their briny juices into the broth. The ingredients come together and the stew is topped with fried oyster croutons, enriched with Sriracha, adding a crispy, playful bite. A refreshing dollop of saffron-flavored aioli adds a creamy finish.
Smoked Clam and Chorizo Stew with Butternut Squash and Fried Oyster Croutons
This is a great one-bowl meal. Although it’s labeled as a stew, it’s meant to be scooped up with a fork, possibly a knife and, of course, a spoon.
Active time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Total duration: 1h15
Yield: For 4 people
1/2 cup homemade or good quality mayonnaise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce
Generous pinch of saffron threads
12 to 16 shelled oysters
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 small butternut squash, peeled and seeded, cut into 1-inch squares about 1/2-inch thick
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large roasted red bell pepper, peeled and seeded, well drained if potted, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1 bay leaf
12 to 16 manila clams or clams
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves for garnish
Whisk together the aioli ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
Put the oysters in a bowl. Whisk buttermilk and Sriracha in a separate bowl, then pour over oysters to cover and set aside. Whisk cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper in another bowl and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage slices and brown on both sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a plate lined with a paper towel. Add the squash to the pan, in batches if necessary, and sauté in the sausage oil until tender but still firm and lightly charred on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
If the pan is dry, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and sauté until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the roasted red pepper and garlic and sauté for about 1 minute more. Stir in tomato paste, paprika, thyme and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add wine to deglaze pan and reduce by about half, scraping up brown bits. Add tomatoes and bay leaf. Simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
Add the clams to the stew. Cover skillet and cook until clam shells open, 8 to 10 minutes, depending on size. (Discard unopened clam shells.) Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
While the stew simmers, fill a large, heavy saucepan with 2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat over medium-high heat until a frying thermometer reads 350 degrees.
Remove the oysters from the buttermilk, shaking off any excess liquid. Dip in corn flour. Fry in batches, without overcrowding, until golden brown and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
Ladle stew into warm serving bowls. Top each bowl with 3-4 oysters. Place a little saffron aioli in the center of the soup. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.