You make your own quick stock for this hearty soup by using the mussels’ cooking liquid as a base. The pastrami's smokiness and its black pepper and coriander notes complement the mussels. The Portuguese know about such a combination; they often pair clams and mussels with spicy linguiça sausage in dishes. Taste the chowder just before you serve it; if the pastrami wasn't very salty to begin with, you may wish to add salt at the finish.
Substituting half-and-half for milk results in a rich chowder; using low-fat milk makes a thin one.
Make Ahead: The chowder can be made and refrigerated a day in advance or frozen for up to 3 months, but add the mussels right before serving so they don’t get rubbery. Also, if you plan to freeze it, do not add the dairy components until you've defrosted and are reheating it. (Refrigerate or freeze the mussels separately after you make the stock.)
Servings: 8 - 10
- For the mussels and chowder
- 2 pounds medium-size mussels
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- For the chowder
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 2 large fresh bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 4 cups regular or low-fat milk (see headnote)
- 1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 8 ounces thickly sliced pastrami, trimmed of most of its fat and chopped
- 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
- Several dashes Tabasco sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
For the mussels: Clean the mussels under running water. If any of them are open, tap on them gently. If they do not close, discard them.
Combine the mussels, water and the teaspoon of salt in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and cook until the mussels have just opened, about 3 minutes. Set a colander over a bowl and drain the mussels. Rinse out the pot; you’ll need to reuse it.
Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth. Strain the cooking liquid into a large measuring cup. Discard the shells and reserve the meat of the mussels.
For the chowder: Melt the butter in the pot over medium-high heat. Once the butter foams, add the onion, celery, carrot, bay leaves and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the flour, cracked black pepper and coriander; cook for 1 minute, stirring, to create a roux.
Gradually add the reserved mussel liquid, stirring constantly so the mixture remains smooth. Add the milk, potatoes and sugar. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir in the pastrami, garlic and thyme and cook for 5 minutes. Add the reserved mussels and cook for 1 minute, just to warm them through.
Discard the bay leaves. Stir in the Tabasco sauce. Taste, and adjust the salt as needed. Divide among individual bowls. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.
From food writer and former chef David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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