“Meta! Why is the air conditioning on 55 degrees?!”
My father manages to reach levels that will rival the ever present buzz of the cicadas and the drone of the ’87 Trane; both ardently protesting the heat of the summer afternoon. The kitchen windows are dripping with condensation.
“I wanted to make soup, so I had to make it feel like fall inside.” I reply sheepishly, knowing all too well this was not a valid excuse in my father’s eyes. “Well, since you are not the one forking over the money for the power bill, do not touch the air. Do you understand?”
I nod my head, unapologetically, and return to tending my pot. I always knew I would do it again next year, all for the sake of soup.
Every chilly season, I have to make the staples. There’s my father’s venison stew, finished with juniper and muscadine jelly, or my grandmother’s okra and beef soup, always on the salty side because of her notorious heavy hand with the shaker. I have even slowly developed my carrot ginger over the years. However, also make it a rule to take on a new recipe to add to the collection. This year the candidate is a seafood soup.
Many countries that touch the coast have their own version. In the States alone, we have the American Italian Cioppino of California, Northeastern chowders, and the gumbos of the South. Undoubtedly, this barely scratches the surface. This receipt combines elements of the Lowcountry Boil and the French Bouillabaisse to create a light, fragrant, and satisfying soup that will make quite the statement for entertaining.
Lowcounty Seafood Soup
This soup base can be prepared ahead of time, and finished by adding the seafood and vegetables just before serving. Take the liberty of making substitutions when it comes to the seafood, and choose what is the freshest when you are shopping.
6 stone crab claws
1 dozen clams
1 pound shrimp
1 dozen oysters
1, 12-16 ounce red snapper filet
1 large Vidalia onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
1/8 teaspoon saffron
28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
4 cups seafood or chicken stock
12 ounces smoked pork sausage, sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup clam juice
2 bay leaves
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 pound small new potatoes
1 pound okra
Begin by preparing the seafood. Peel and devein the shrimp. Clean the clams and crab claws by scrubbing them well with a brush. Next, place the clams in a bowl and fill with cold water. Allow the clams to sit for 5 minutes and then drain. Repeat at least 3 times, to remove any sediment. Shuck the oysters and reserve any liquor with the oysters. Finally, cut the snapper into 2-3 ounce portions, or roughly 1 ½ inch cubes. Store the seafood in the refrigerator.
Next, prepare the base of the soup. In a large soup pot, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until the onion is softened and begins to become translucent. This will take about 5-7 minutes. Then, add the saffron and chili flakes and stir for one minute. Now add the tomatoes, stock, clam juice, wine, lemon zest, bay leaves, and sausage. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. The soup base can be prepared ahead up to a day before serving, just return to a simmer before continuing to the next step.
To finish the soup, add the new potatoes and cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on the size. The potatoes should be tender, but still have a resistance in the center when poked with a fork. Next, add the clams, crab claws, and okra, and simmer for 5 minutes. To finish add the shrimp and the oysters and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and the clams have opened. Serve immediately.