Once in a while serendipity comes to visit, and if I am paying attention, I take advantage. That’s what happened when I decided that the menu for our next JazzVox pre-concert meal would include a soup, a stew, and a chowder. (Also Roasted Rosemary Cashews, a quinoa salad, two kinds of homemade bread, and a cake to round out the lineup.)
I knew the stew had to be Beef Stew. Not a very pretentious name, but my stew is not a humble offering. Nothing starting with lean bacon and containing red wine and rosemary need take a back seat to any other dish even if its name is terribly common.
The soup I am choosing to serve is vegan, containing curry and lots of delicious veggies. (If it works out, I’ll be posting the recipe in the next few days.) For the chowder, I decided a creamy seafood based chowder would be delicious.
I rarely make seafood chowders, mainly because Mr. C. is not fond of potatoes. (And potato is kind of the quintessential ingredient in seafood chowders.) So I promised him, that whatever I came up with, potatoes would be secondary to the seafood. I also promised him that the potatoes would not be mushy. (I knew I could achieve tender, not mushy potatoes by steaming small potatoes whole, then cutting them into very small chunks. Not adding them until the last part of the chowder cooking time would also help keep the potatoes firm.) So then, what kind of seafood chowder?
For Christmas my father-in-law had given us a 6-ounce chunk of smoked salmon (the serendipity part). And there it was, quietly sitting on a shelf in my pantry waiting to be devoured (the me paying attention part).
So I went on line and started researching smoked salmon chowder recipes. I learned a lot. I already knew how to make cream soups, so based on my knowledge and some parts and pieces from several on-line contributors, I came up with this recipe.
This is definitely not an in-your-face smoked salmon flavored chowder. It’s more of a well-balanced dish that should appeal to sophisticated palates. You might even say that it is a “gentrified” chowder. (And no, I am not trying to be
cheap frugal in limiting the amount of smoked salmon in this recipe. I’m simply trying to provide you with the ideal smoked salmon chowder experience!)
So, since winter is upon us, I suggest you give this chowder a try. It is easy to prepare, and really, really tasty. Perfect for a cold, rainy weeknight dinner or weekend lunch. Great with warm sour dough bread or oyster crackers.
- 12 oz. small white or fingerling potatoes, peeled
- 8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ½ lg. yellow onion, small dice
- 2 stalks celery, small dice
- 2 lg. garlic cloves, finely minced
- freshly ground black pepper
- 6 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 c. water
- 3 T. tomato paste
- 3 c. half-and-half
- 1 c. whole milk, or more as needed
- 8 oz. (1 lg. pkg.) cream cheese, room temperature, cut into 1″ chunks
- 5 T. capers, rinsed and drained
- 12 oz. smoked salmon, chopped into small pieces
- 2 T. chopped celery leaves
- kosher salt, if needed
Steam the whole potatoes until they are just barely done. (After the water comes to a boil, it takes 15-20 minutes.) Remove from pot. When cool, cut into small dice. (I personally hate large chunks of potato in my chowders. So I cut the potatoes into a really small dice.) Set aside.
Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion and celery; cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and black pepper; cook for one minute.
Whisk in the flour and let it cook for one minute. Whisk in the water and tomato paste. Continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and thickened. Stir in the diced potatoes; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in the half-and-half, whole milk, cream cheese, capers, and smoked salmon. Heat slowly until almost simmering. Add more milk if required to reach desired consistency.
Remove from heat, adjust seasoning, and stir in celery leaves. Serve hot with crusty sour dough bread or oyster crackers.