February 27, 2013

Scallop Fennel Chowder

2 lb bay scallops
1 bunch small "baby" Vidalia onions (with greens attached), diced
1 shallot, minced
1 large bulb fennel, diced
1 rather large russet potato, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
4-5 (thin, regular) slices bacon, diced and cooked until crisp
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups half and half
2 tablespoons olive oil (or a mix of bacon grease and olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Heat the butter or oil in a dutch oven or large pot. Saute the white parts of the onion, shallot, celery and fennel until the vegetables are softened. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until nearly fully cooked. Drain and set aside.  Add  the scallops,  bacon, spices, potatoes, milk, half and half to the vegetable mixture and simmer until the scallops are cooked through. Stir in the green tops of the Vidalia onion. Serve with oyster crackers on the side.
My thoughts:
I know it must be inching closer to spring if I can find "baby" Vidalia onions in the store. Larger and sweeter than green onions or scallions, they are a great way to add a light onion flavor to dishes like this chowder that need a subtle touch. If you can't find them, substitute similar looking spring onions. Fennel is just making its way into the market as well so I decided to pair them together in this deceptively light scallop chowder. I love how the fennel retained a bit of its crisp texture making it a toothsome addition to the chowder. Bay scallops pack as much flavor as their larger sea-bred cousins but they are more perfectly sized for soup and more affordable to boot. All together, they made for a chowder that was fresh tasting and lightly herbal. Perfect for a light, weeknight meal.