Smoky Fish Chowder

smoky_fish_chowderMakes about 9 cups, 4 servings
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total preparation time: 30 minutes





4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
½ pound Canadian bacon
1 medium onion
2 medium stalks celery
1 pound boiling potatoes such as Yukon Gold or Red Bliss
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 1/4 teaspoons dried
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups Homemade Chicken Stock (see below) or canned broth
3 cups whole milk
12 ounces smoked trout fillets
Smoked paprika, for garnish
Chopped fresh dill leaves or parsley, or chopped chiles, for garnish (optional)

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Medium chop the Canadian bacon (about 1 ¾ cups) and add it to the saucepan; cook it until it turns light brown, about 5 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.

2. Finely chop the onion (about 1 cup) and celery (about 1 cup). Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the onion and celery and cook 5 minutes or until the onion has softened. Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes and cut them into 1/3-inch cubes; finely chop the fresh thyme (about 2 teaspoons).

3. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the stock and milk and bring to boil over high heat, whisking constantly. Add the potatoes and thyme and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

4. Remove and discard the skin from the trout. Break the flesh into bite size pieces (a little more than 2 cups) and add them to the pan along with the reserved bacon; cook until heated through. Serve the soup sprinkled with paprika; chopped herbs or chiles, if using.

Homemade Chicken Stock
Although I use store bought chicken stock in the episode I thought you might want my recipe for chicken stock in case you had the time, perhaps on a weekend, to make chicken stock from scratch.

Makes: About 8 cups

5 lbs Chicken wings
2 Medium onions
2 Small carrots
2 Medium celery stalks
4 Fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 Fresh thyme sprigs
1 tsp Whole black peppercorns
1 Turkish bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Put the chicken wings in a large stockpot and add enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring the mixture just to a boil over high heat, skimming the surface with a slotted spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low immediately and simmer, skimming frequently, for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, quarter the onions and halve the carrots and celery. Add to the stockpot along with the parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Return the mixture just to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

3. Strain the stock through a colander into a bowl and discard the solids. Skim off all the fat that rises to the surface of the stock. (Or let the stock cool and refrigerate it overnight. The fat will harden on top of the stock and is much easier to remove).

4. Return the stock to the pot and simmer until reduced by one-third, about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook’s Notes
When I am moving mountains of chopped ingredients I always reach for my giant Cake Lifter. It was designed to move delicate cake layers when frosting a cake but I rarely use it for that. The only problem is finding a space to store it. I tuck it “blade” side down in the side of my bread drawer. You can find cake lifters at many specialty kitchenware shops or at www.kingarthurflour.com.

Not every potato is right for every recipe. The two main categories of potatoes are baking and boiling. Baking potatoes, also called russet potatoes (the most famous is the Idaho), are high in starch and come out fluffy and light when they are baked. They’re also great mashed. Given their starchy goodness, baking potatoes are the ones you want if you’re making gnocchi or if you need a thickener for soup.

But it you’re making a potato salad, you should reach for a boiling potato, like Red Bliss. Boiling potatoes hold their shape when they’re cooked, and they have the added benefit of a thin skin, which means there’s no need to peel them. Some potatoes are considered all-purpose. The most famous of these is the  Yukon gold, so named because of its naturally golden color, which somehow persuades us that it tastes like butter. They can be baked or boiled.

Having suggested that there is a perfect potato for every recipe, I hereby give you license to use any kind if the perfect potato isn’t at hand when you need it. I never met a potato I didn’t like.

The right tool for making a gravy or cream sauce, anything that is thickened with flour, is a flat whisk. It enables you to get into the corners of the pan where the roux tends to get stuck. You can find flat whisks in any kitchenware store.

A few years ago American chefs and food writers started using smoked paprika in their recipes and you’ll be surprised how much flavor a little of this special seasoning can bring to a dish. Available in sweet, bittersweet, or hot, smoked paprika is made in Spain from peppers that are dried slowly over an oak-burning fire for several weeks. It can be used anywhere you would use regular paprika and in addition, can bring the flavor usually associated with smoked meats to vegetarian dishes. It is available in gourmet stores, some supermarkets, and by mail from LaTienda.com (888-472-1022) or The Spice House (847- 328-3711).

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2 Responses to Smoky Fish Chowder

  1. John says:

    Like your recipes and this one looks good. I wish that you had the nutritional breakdown because there are many fans who are watching their carbs, salt, cholesterol etc.. I tend to adjust recipes as my doctor recommends. Thanks

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