Crab and corn are a classic chowder combination, but there's no fresh corn in February. We've used hominy instead, giving this flavorful soup a satisfying bite and playing up the Southwest vibe of the avocado and cilantro toppings. Prep and Cook Time: about 30 minutes.
Sunset FEBRUARY 2006
1. In a 4- to 6-quart pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon, chopped, until fat starts to render. Discard all but 1 teaspoon fat from pan. Add white part of leek, halved, rinsed, and thinly sliced; stir until limp. Add wine and boil until almost evaporated. Add chicken broth; 2 cups water; hominy; potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch chunks; and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make cilantro purée (see below). Also pit, peel, and chop avocado; mix with lime juice. Stir whipping cream and salt and pepper to taste into chowder. Add Dungeness crab; cover and cook until heated through, stirring as little as possible to keep crab intact. Spoon chowder into bowls and top each with a tablespoon of cilantro purée and a spoonful of avocado.
To make the cilantro purée, in a blender, combine vegetable oil; olive oil; cilantro; chiles, rinsed, stemmed, and seeded; garlic, peeled; and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whirl until smooth. Any leftovers can be spread on toast for an easy appetizer.
Wine pairing: With the rich crab, pungent chile, and herbal cilantro, we like a creamy, minerally Pinot Gris. Cline's Pinot Grigio-Chardonnay blend (California; $11) is great as well.
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