Seafood Chowder with Tarragon and Parmesan Pastry Rounds

This week a reader asked if we might have any great ideas for a seafood chowder.  The morning after reading the request I stepped out the door on my way to the market and was greeted by a blustery blast of frigid air combined with a shower of extremely cold rain and knew immediately that the evening meal would have to be something that would be able to take the chill from our bones… and a seafood chowder would appropriately measure up to that task!  Hmmmm… what shall the ingredients be?  As I passed the seafood case the plump large sea scallops were begging me to take them home!  As I continued walking towards the produce section of the market I was greeted by a beautiful palate of color I sensed would not only be appealing to the eye but also add the flavors we were seeking for a delectable new take on a traditional chowder.  I selected fragrant white leeks with their rich green leaves, firm bright red Roma tomatoes, earthy brown Crimini mushrooms.  And what about those Yukon gold potatoes with their buttery yellow flesh?  The creamy white corn would add wonderful sweetness…  and the brilliant red bell peppers would contribute an additional sweet note as well as vivid and bold flecks of color to the piping hot bowl steaming in my mind’s eye!

I raced home with a shopping bag filled with colorful treasures and placed all of the items on the work island for Dayton’s inspection as if challenging him to create a dish a la Iron Chef!  He was deep in thought for a few minutes and then said, “We need prawns… we need clams!  Do we have enough chicken stock and cream?  Is there bacon in the fridge…?”  I ended up making at least three more trips to the market as his creative juices flowed!

We’ve been working on a pot pie recipe, another dish that is wonderfully satisfying when there’s a chill in the autum air, so my thoughts had been focused on an interesting pastry topping for a dish that would be thick and stew-like.  A chowder, however, does not lend itself to that kind of treatment.  My thought, however, was why not create an interesting blind baked savory pastry that would be both a decorative and palate pleasing complement to the finished chowder?  As Dayton began prepping the primary chowder ingredients I reached for the large stainless steel mixing bowl and the rolling pin.  Dinner that evening was wonderfully rewarding to both the eye and the palate…!

Seafood Chowder with  Tarragon & Parmesan Pastry Rounds

Baker’s Note: This pastry is mixed and rolled according to the procedure described in “Gentleness and Patience: The Keys to that Perfect Pastry Crust,” with the addition of an extra tablespoon of ice water, white pepper, grated Parmigiano Reggiano  and minced fresh tarragon.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place in a large bowl:

  • 3 C flour
  • 1 C lard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper 

Mix together with your fingertips until crumbly. Add:

  • 2 T minced fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 C grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Mix well to combine:


  • 1 egg (yolk and white)

To the beaten egg add:

  • 1 tsp cider vinegar

Stir to incorporate and drizzle over the flour and lard mixture, in addition to:

  • 6 1/2 T ice water

With your fingertips gently incorporate the ingredients until they begin to pull together.  Form into a ball without overworking.  Place the dough on a generously floured work surface, shaping it into a flattened disk.  Roll out pastry using bold sweeps of the rolling pin to prevent overworking, turning the pastry around on the floured surface to prevent sticking. Using an inverted plate or small bowl as a template, cut cicles of pastry with a paring knife.  We used the lid of a small enameled individual casserole lid which had a diameter of approximately 5 inches:

This pastry recipe was large enough to produce 8 rounds.  For our meal we blind baked the number we needed, having first placed decorative cuts simulating vents on a pie crust and fork tine “crimping” around the edges.  The remaining rounds were stacked between parchment, placed in a resealable storage bag and slipped into the fridge for later use:

Bake until sufficiently browned, approximately 15 – 20 minutes:

Transfer pastry rounds to a cooling rack with a spatula:

Prepare the chowder.  In a medium saucepan heat:

  • 3 C chicken stock (low sodium recommended)

Hold in reserve.  To a large saucepan over low heat add:

  • 4 T unsalted sweet butter

When the butter has melted, add:

  • 2 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 medium leeks, trimmed, rinsed and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

Saute over gentle heat for ten minutes until leeks are softened and the bacon is cooked, stirring occasionally:

Chef’s Note:  It is important to cook slowly over low heat because butter is being used rather than oil.

While the leek mixture is cooking, puree in a blender:

  • cut kernels from one ear of white corn
  • 1/2 C heavy cream

Chef’s Note:  This recipe requires two ears of white corn, one for the puree and the second as a whole kernel addition.

Set puree aside.  To the leeks, bacon and garlic add:

  • 6 T flour

Briskly whisk to incorporate and cook the flour, 2 – 3 minutes.  Add:

  • the 3 cups of heated chicken stock
  • 3 C half & half
  • Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, excess juice drained and discarded
  • 4-oz Crimini mushrooms, whole if small, halved or quartered if larger
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips then diced
  • 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 fresh Turkish bay leaves (dried are an adequate substitute if fresh are not available)
  • 1 T minced fresh tarragon, packed

Increase the heat to moderately high, bring to a simmer and cook 15 – 20 minutes. Add:

  • whole cut kernels from 1 ear of white corn
  • reserved corn and cream puree

Return to a simmer, partially cover and cook 15 – 20 minutes more.  Add:

  • 1 lb sea scallops, halved or, if exceptionally large, quartered

Cook for 2 – 3 minutes.  Add:

  • 1/2 – 1 lb large prawns, shelled and deveined, if necessary

Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add:

  • 1 1/2 lb Manilla clams
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 T Pernod
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Stir to incorporate and simmer an additional 5 minutes.  Ladle into warmed individual casseroles or soup bowls.  Garnish with a savory pastry round.  This delicious chowder serves six very hungry dinersBon Appetit!

Copyright 2009 Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved



Categories: Seafood

Author:Steve Meyer & Dayton Azevedo

Food and fine cooking have been our passion for many years, fueled by the year-around abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats, as well as aromatic spices and herbs readily available to us here in the San Francisco Bay Area, making adventuresome, creative and delicious 5-star cooking a reality in our kitchen. Our aim is to make it yours as well by utilizing our step by step instructions and serial photographs. Bon Appetit from our kitchen to yours...!


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2 Comments on “Seafood Chowder with Tarragon and Parmesan Pastry Rounds”

  1. France
    November 23, 2009 at 8:21 PM #

    Looks and sounds like heaven! The presentation is beautiful and your step by step instructions and photos make the recipes very approachable. (Thanks guys-how on earth are you both not big as houses?)

  2. Beth (Zeller) Goodman
    November 24, 2009 at 4:58 AM #

    Thank you guys! Even though the seafood available in Albert Lea, Minnesota won’t compare to that on the coast I can hardly wait to share this meal with friends. Looks fantastic!

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