Over the last decade, while traveling through the United States, I fell in love with clam chowder. After tasting quite a few bowls of this New England classic, I have come to know what makes a really good chowder—not too much pork, lots of mollusks, a delicious broth that is creamy and not too thick. I was inspired to develop a version that connects my new favorite to my heritage, and I started by substituting the clams with mussels. Generally cheaper than clams, mussels are a staple in Italian fish soups, so their cost makes this an everyday kind of soup instead of something to make for special occasions. One of my favorite lunches is a big bowl of this soup, fettunta, and a cold glass of Pinot Grigio or a beer.
Recipe from “Super Tuscan. Heritage Recipes and Simple Pleasures from our Kitchen to Your Table”, Touchstone. Photography by Eric Wolfinger.
Prep Time: 15 mins / Cook Time: 45 mins / Serves:6
2 pounds mussels, preferably Prince Edward Island, beards removed
1∕2 cup dry white wine
3 cups Vegetable Broth, plus more as needed
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut
into 1∕2-inch cubes (about 12 ounces)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1∕2 cup (1∕4-inch) diced pancetta (or guanciale, even better)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small celery rib, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1∕2 teaspoon nely chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose our Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 1∕2 cup heavy cream
Country Toast, rubbed with garlic, for serving
1Scrub the mussels under cold running water and put them in a large bowl. Add salted ice water to cover and let stand for about an hour or so. ( This helps the mussels expel any grit from their insides.) Drain and rinse well. Discard any opened or cracked mussels.
2Put the mussels and wine in a large pot and cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, just until the mussels have opened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using kitchen tongs, transfer the mussels to a large bowl, discarding any unopened mussels. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl, leaving any grit behind in the pot. Measure the cooking liquid and add enough broth to make 4 cups. Set the cooking liquid mixture aside.
3Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and set the potatoes aside.
4Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta (or the guanciale) and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and mix well. Stir in the reserved liquid mixture and bring to a simmer. Adjust the heat to medium low and cook, with the lid ajar, for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
5Stir in the cream and return to a simmer. Add the mussels and potatoes and cover. Cook just to warm the potatoes and mussels, about 1 minute. Serve the chowder in deep bowls with the fettunta.
TIP: Prince Edward Island mussels have their beards (the cords that the mussels use to secure themselves to their growing location) removed before sale. Other varieties usually come to market with their beards intact. To remove the tough, inedible beards, just use a pair of pliers to pull them out .