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Salsify is a plant from the sunflower family that has a long black root that can be cultivated for food. It’s taste is somewhat similar to oysters, which is why it’s also known as oyster plant. Some of its other names include serpent root and serpent herb.

The first time I’ve heard of this plant was on Top Chef where somebody used it in a recipe, and I had forgotten about this ingredient with a verb like name until I came across it at Central Market.

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Sine I had no prior knowledge of what it looked like, I had to double check the label and the associated sticker to make sure I had the right item. The plant looked a lot like Japanese gobo, when peeled, it exudes a very viscous and sticky material, which is why after its peeled and cut, salsify should be placed in a bowl of water mixed with some vinegar or lemon juice to keep it from discoloration.

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While the salsify is soaking, I started on the rest of the soup. First some chopped bacon is sautéed in a large sauce pan until its crispy and the fat has rendered out. The bacon is removed and finely chopped onions are sweated until softened, then the salsify is drained and added to the pan.

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The onions and salsify are cooked on medium heat until the salsify is almost tender, then white wine is added to the pan and brought to a boil. The heat is turned down to medium, and clam juice, water, and thyme are added to the pan and simmered for another 10 minutes.

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While the soup is simmering, fresh oysters are shucked, also taking note to keep the oyster brine.

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The oysters and brine are kept in the fridge until the soup is ready.

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Once the salsify is tender, the oysters, cream, and cayenne pepper are added to the soup, and simmered until the oysters are cooked through, discarding the thyme sprigs before serving.

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The soup is ladled into bowls and topped with chopped parsley and the bacon bits.

Light and creamy oyster chowder with salsify: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/light-and-creamy-oyster-chowder-with-salsify

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