Smoky Oyster Chowder with Bacon, Rosemary and Fennel


This velvety chowder is packed with plump oysters and tender fingerling potatoes, plus a kick of heat from dried red chiles.

Smoky Oyster Chowder with Bacon, Rosemary and Fennel
Photo: © Marcus Nilsson
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
8 to 10

Chef Dylan Fultineer layers flavor and texture in this hearty bowl of chowder. He starts by rendering fat from quality bacon; Fultineer uses bacon from Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams in Tennessee, which is famous for its intense smokiness. The rendered bacon fat is used to cook the celery, onion, and fennel that forms the base of the chowder, as well as the rosemary and dried red chiles that lend it more complex flavors. He then makes a classic flour-and-butter roux and cooks it to a medium brown color before adding it to the chowder to enrich both the flavor and texture. The crisp pieces of bacon are returned to the pot later, along with oysters. The result is a warming chowder perfect for a cool day.


  • 4 ounces smoky bacon, such as Benton’s (See Note), cut into 1-by- 1/4- inch matchsticks

  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

  • 2 dried red chiles, stemmed and broken

  • 4 small celery ribs, finely chopped

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped

  • 2 quarts fish stock or 1 quart bottled clam broth with 1 quart of water

  • 1 stick unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch rounds

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 1 pint freshly shucked oysters with their liquor

  • Tabasco, for serving


  1. In a large pot, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pot. Add the rosemary and chiles to the pot and cook for 1 minute. Add the celery, onion and fennel and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the fish stock and bring to a simmer.

  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the roux is the color of peanut butter, about 5 minutes. Scrape the roux into the soup and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and simmer until tender and the soup has thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cream, season with salt and pepper and return to a simmer.

  3. Add the oysters and bacon to the soup and simmer until the oysters are just cooked, about 3 minutes. Spoon the chowder into deep bowls and serve with Tabasco.

Make Ahead

The recipe can be made through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight. Return to a simmer before proceeding.


Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams are available at

Suggested Pairing

This incredibly fragrant chowder could easily overpower white wines that don’t have enough acidity. Pour a zippy Muscadet from France’s coastal Loire Valley.

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