Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Most Excellent Seafood Chowder

I have just made the best seafood chowder I've ever made to date, and I've made a few of them, let me tell you. Here's what I did:

  • In a large dutch oven, I fried up about 7 slices of bacon I had kicking around my fridge
  • Once they were done - and I didn't cook them until very crisp, just until cooked through and they had some colour - I removed them to a paper towel to drain
  • I deglazed my pan with about 1/2 - 3/4 cup white wine and stirred well to bring up the bits from the bottom of the pan
  • I added 2 diced medium onions and sauted them until translucent
  • Added 3 medium white potatoes and 2 sliced carrots
  • Poured in enough water to just cover this, added some salt and pepper to taste and a sprinkling of dried oregano, then brought it to a boil
  • Simmered it until the veggies were tender

At this point, I took a potato masher and gave the mixture a rough mash - I didn't turn it into a puree or anything resembling mashed potatoes, though. Just mashed it enough to make the chunks smaller. This also helps to thicken the chowder. To this I added:

  • 1/2 lb thawed raw large shrimp
  • 1 large salmon filet, skinned and boned, about 8 ounces
  • the bacon, which I had chopped up

I let these cook thoroughly before adding

  • about 1/2lb fresh mussel meat (out of the shell, coveniently enough; I found this yesterday at the local Chinese grocer)
  • 300g fresh clam meat (also conveniently out of the shell; I found this at my favourite grocery store, The Real Canadian Superstore)
  • 1 bottle (about 250mL) clam juice
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

I let this heat through for a few moments before adding 1 cup of whipping cream. One this was heated through, it was ready to serve.

Notes for the Readership...

  1. Deglazing is a fancy term for adding a liquid, usually some sort of a stock or wine, to a pan that has just had meat browned in it. The deglazing brings up all the bits left from the meat off the bottom of the pan, which contain a lot of flavour. Always deglaze; you're just chucking out flavour otherwise.
  2. Don't do anything stupid like take an immersion blender to the potato/carrot mixture. You want chunks here, remember, not a puree. A potato masher can be purchased super cheaply at a dollar store. You can use it for other dishes, too, like making homemade refried beans and other stuff.
  3. You can use any type of seafood you like. I put in what I liked and what I could find. Fresh is best. Canned clams are fine; add 2 tins with their nectar and skip the bottle of clam juice. Other canned seafood I wouldn't recommend because of the sodium factor.
  4. Never boil or simmer the soup after the cream has been added; it will split.
  5. I always add my crushed garlic to anything after the main liquid ingredient has been added because this keeps the garlicky flavour nice and mellow but still noticable. I never saute garlic with the onions because it tends to caramelize and go bitter, and I can never taste the garlic when I do this. You will not have garlic breath, I promise (unless you add tons); it'll mellow out in the heat of the liquid.
  6. Don't skimp on the bacon, or skip it altogether, for God's sake. Bacon is superb for adding smokey, salty flavour to just about anything.
  7. I don't peel my potatoes when adding them to any soup. The peel is where the bulk of the vitamins and nutrients are, as well as the fibre. Don't use a baking potato; not a nice texture in a soup. I like new white or Yukons, or even the red skinned ones.

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