Thursday, January 8, 2015

Comfort Food, Easy-Style

Here we go, as promised. I served this Chowder to a friend who came for a very casual, easy dinner over the holidays. To accompany it, I made fresh bread from this ever-so-easy and so satisfying recipe --   Some Tormaresca Chardonnay, one of the only Chardonnays I really like (soon, I'm going to write the follow-up post I promised months ago on our visit to this Puglian wine estate) . . . and to finish, we treated our sweet teeth with another easy recipe -- Gingerbread Pear Pudding

Seafood Chowder

In a large pot, saute 1 diced fennel bulb and one medium-sized onion in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter.  As onion becomes translucent, add 1 or 2 finely diced carrots, then 1 chopped yellow or red pepper.  Stir enough to avoid sticking or burning – keep heat at a low-medium, cook for about  5 minutes, letting veggies “sweat,” as my dad used to term it. 
                Sprinkle in about 2 tablespoons of flour, stirring over same low-medium heat for a minute or two, and then  stir in about a cup of white wine (you could substitute chicken stock or water or clam nectar or even apple juice here, but the wine is nice and then you’ve got something to drink with your meal, right?).
                Keeping the heat low to medium,  stirring gently, add in 1 or 2 medium potatoes, diced.  Gradually stir in 2 or 3 cups of stock (I use chicken but vegetarian could work as well) – depending on your time frame, you might choose to turn the heat just a bit higher  until the potatoes are tender. You will also add, if you have it, the nectar from a can of clams (and you might even add an extra can of the nectar which can be bought separately).
                When the potatoes are tender and you’re within 20 minutes of sitting down to eat, you can add your seafood: I generally include a fillet of cod, but almost any fish would do – sliced into bite-size piece. Other possibilities for a pleasing combination:  150g of shrimp; 150 g of scallops (chopped in half or quartered if the larger Digby scallop; left alone if the smaller swimming scallops). I always add, for flavour, about 150g of smoked salmon – lox trimmings are great for this and the price is usually decent. My chowders usually rely on a can of baby clams. And I also like to include whole oysters, along with the nectar they’re packed in – not everyone likes these, but if you do, it’s easy enough to make sure they don’t get served into some bowls.
 For a special dinner, I throw all of these in, but a quick pop in to a fishmonger’s will reveal that to be an expensive option.  I could be quite happy with a version that features only the canned clams, the smoked salmon, and whatever white fish fillets are on sale that day. In that case, I might throw in a can of niblets corn to compensate (and because I like that contrasting crunch and colour!)

Now where was I before I got distracted with all the options?  -- Oh yes, your potatoes are tender, you’ve added whatever seafood you choose, and now you’ll want to add 2-4 cups of milk (I’d go at least 2%, and for some occasions you might want to include a bit of cream or whole milk – ours was all 2% last night). Season to taste with salt and pepper – maybe some thyme as well. Heat slowly and carefully until just before the boil – fish will be just opaque. Your chowder is now ready to ladle into bowls and serve. (If you have any left over, it's lovely the next day for lunch!)

Obviously, this turns out a bit differently every time I make it. If you make up a version, let me know what variations you introduce and I'd love to know how you enjoyed it. Ditto for that peasant-bread-in-a-bowl recipe and the Gingerbread Pear Pudding. 

12 comments:

  1. Your recipe (or lack thereof) reminds me of the fish soup of my Shetland relatives:tatties, onions, carrots and whatever seafood is available. I'm going to follow your recipe as I really love all food from the sea. A funny synchronicity:you wrote a few days ago mentioning Ravalry (or something similar) and I was reading expat blogs from Mexico, I "met" a knitter who now lives in Oaxaca where I will be spending 2.5 months this spring. The world is a small place.

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    1. I'd love to hear how yours turns out -- like your Shetland relatives' fish soup, it's a very vlexible recipe.
      Ravelry is a very cool social database for knitters -- I wonder if you and your Oaxaca friend will end up knitting together.

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  2. I love a hearty one pot meal for cold evenings...this chowder is a variation of the one I use but I add bacon in the first stage when sautéing the onions.

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    1. I've also added bacon at that stage, but we have a few pescatarians in our network and this recipe works better for them.

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  3. My mouth watered as I read your post. This chowder sounds so delicious!

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  4. Gosh that sounds delicious. Those near and dear to me are lactose-intolerant but I'd eat this in a flash otherwise...

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    1. I wonder what substitutes could be made -- if I had to stay with a clear stock, I'd be tempted to cook 2 or 3 potatoes separately, then mash them, saving the cooking liquid, and add all that to thicken, colour, and flavour the chowder. . .

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  5. I do a similar one with smoked fish, and celery rather than peppers. Can't wait for the weather to cool down so I can make it :)

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    1. Yes! I often use smoked salmon in this. It's true that I'd be unlikely to serve it much in the summer -- you're in the height of yours now, are you? (Miss you, btw -- hope all is well)

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  6. MMmm that sounds good.
    I make my mother's chowder, which sounds a lot like this one - I like to fool around with it a bit too.

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    1. It's good to have recipes we know so well that we can adjust according to our larders, right?

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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