A trip to the market yesterday for some fish yielded a couple dozen beautiful mahogany clams and, at the behest of the child, a lobster. He loves to peer into the tank and tell the fish guy which one he wants. The clams were twelve cents each, which is wonderful, so I was OK with shelling out (get it?) about thirteen bucks for a lobster we could all share. And the chowder I had decided to make as soon as I saw the clams would welcome the addition of lobster to make it a fancier Sunday dinner.
Good chowder is a genius of a soup. It’s not worth making if the ingredients aren’t top notch, though. These were. Homemade bacon got it started, followed by onion and carrot, then herbes de Provence, smoked paprika, and saffron, and last a healthy pour of sherry to deglaze and complete the trifecta of Spanish flavors. Not so much as to overpower the essential chowderness of the result, but to inflect it with the inimitable Iberian cant that flatters shellfish so swimmingly. I threw in a couple of fat handfuls of shredded collards, because vegetables.
Then the clams went in, to steam and open, and I pulled them out and shelled them. The lobster went in next, and it too came out when ready for shelling. Several cubed potatoes, some ramp leaves, and about a quart of milk followed, and brought the pot up to a bare simmer to cook them. Once approaching tender, in went the clams and the cut-up lobster tail and knuckle meat. I reserved the claw meat for garnish, along with a bunch of chopped scallions.
I opened a 2012 Château Campuget rosé, and it was a dreamy complement to the hearty yet refined soup: tart acidity, fragrant herbs, insistent fruit. Alternating slurps of chilled wine and hot soup studded with chewy nuggets from earth and sea made me surpassingly happy. And the whole thing only took one pot, sop cleanup was a breeze.