RECIPE FOR MY COGNAC INFUSED SEAFOOD SOUP
The first thing you have to ensure is that the clams you buy to make the base of the soup are fresh. This you should be able to ascertain from the smell.
When buying the clams, don’t be afraid to to take a good whiff. Of course it will smell a little briny and fishy but if the clams are not fresh or there are many dead clams in there, the pungent fishy smell will be unduly strong. That smell will not go away no matter how many times you wash them and your whole pot of ingredients will have to be thrown away eventually.
So it’s absolutely vital for the clams to be fresh.
WASHING THE CLAMS
Ok so let’s assume you bought fresh clams. Wash the clams thoroughly with salt. In a large tub or bowl, put in 3 large spoonfuls of coarse salt and fill half the bowl with water. Wash the clam shells vigorously for a few minutes then throw out the water. Repeat the process 3 times.
On the third time, cover the clams completely with water and lots of coarse salt (6 large spoonfuls). Soak for half hour.
After half hour, pour out the salt water and rinse thoroughly with running water and then strain.
This should remove all impurities and once you throw out the water, the clam shells will look very clean and even a little shiny. Remember that you are going to boil these clam shells in your soup for hours so it has to be super clean and the shells clear of all impurities.
If you buy mussels or any other form of shellfish, it should be cleaned the same way.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SOUP
The ingredients for your seafood soup could be large prawns, fish cut into thick chunks or thick slices, mussels, crayfish meat, scallops etc.
These are to be fried separately and not boiled with the rest of your clam stock.
SEASONING YOUR SEAFOOD
Season your prawns or fish chunks/slices.
Here is one suggested seasoning (serves 6 pax ) :
12 big prawns and/or fish chunks or sliced
1 tablespoon of cumin powder
1 tablespoon each of turmeric powder and curry powder
2 tablespoons honey (or sugar)
Pepper and salt
Ginger juice (optional)
Season for 2-3 hours or up to a full day in the fridge.
COOKING THE PRAWNS AND FISH
When you are about to serve, pan fry the prawns, scallops or fish in olive oil and a little butter in a hot pan or griddle, and throw in some fresh thyme to add aromas to the seafood. Set aside.
COOKING THE MUSSELS
To cook mussels, heat up a generous amount of olive oil in a hot pasta pan or wok.
Add in one finely chopped yellow onion and saute until it turns slightly half brown. Add in 2 large tablespoons of chopped garlic and continue sautéing over high heat. Once the garlic turns half brown, add in the mussels and mix well. Your mussels should start to open up. Continue mixing well.
Add in half bottle of white wine and reduce.
By this time, your mussels will all have opened. Discard any mussel that is not opened by this time.
Add 2 large tablespoons of thyme and 2-4 large tablespoons of chopped fresh Italian parsley. Season with pepper and salt and dry chilli flakes. Add chicken stock and mix well.
Add a little fresh cream if desired (optional).
Fill up a large and deep pot with water (about 2/3 pot) . Bring to boil and add:
4 whole chicken carcasses cleanly washed several times with coarse salt and blanched
1 stalk of celery cut into 2-3 pieces
2 skinned carrots cut into thick chunks
One large yellow onion quartered
4 whole cloves of garlic
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of Italian parsley
2 bay leaves
2 flower crabs washed and quartered or halved
*** In place of crab, you can use prawn head or crayfish shell
While the above is boiling, cook the clams. Refer to the method of cooking mussels above and follow the exact same steps as above except that the amount of white wine to cook the clams should be one whole bottle .
The amount of clams to buy? 1.5- 2 kg or more. The more clams you have, the tastier the stock will be.
Buy the cheapest clams you can find for the stock.
In Singapore, the wet market sells the conventional littleneck clams seen above for about S$3-4 per kg so it’s really economical.
If you find more expensive clams or exotic mussels, use those for the seafood ingredients instead, not the stock.
Once the clams are cooked, pour all the clams and its white wine juices into the large pot of stock you are boiling above and bring the whole pot to a full boil.
Season with pepper and salt. Then turn the fire down to medium and continue boiling for the next 2-3 hours. Monitor and add a little water from time to time if desired.
At the end of the 3 hours, strain the soup stock. The soup stock should be quite thick and concentrated.
This process can be done way before serving time and can even be done one day before .
PREPPING THE SOUP FOR SERVICE
Half an hour before your guests arrive, bring your stock to a boil. Add thickened cream (normal cooking cream will also do) one large table spoonfuls at a time until the soup thickens slightly and up to your desired creaminess.
I may use about half of the thickened cream you see above
Add two to three tablespoons of Cognac or normal brandy.
Season with more salt and pepper to taste if necessary.
Add 1 -2 tablespoons or more of shaved Parmesan if desired (optional).
The mussels and its gravy are to be spooned into your serving bowl together with the prawns, fish or scallops which you have pan fried in advance.
When your guests arrive, simply heat up the soup to a boil again and spoon the soup into your bowl over your seafood ingredients.
If desired, drizzle in half a teaspoon of truffle oil (optional ) and a squirt of lemon juice (optional).
Serve immediately with Crusted garlic bread.