January 17, 2009

Salmon Corn Chowder

As promised.

This is the first fish dish that I ever became delighted to make again. Fish and I, we have issues (if not whole subscriptions). I cobbled the recipe together out of other recipes when I was still in University, and always on the lookout for affordable food with a big flavour payoff.

Living in Vancouver, salmon is probably more affordable to me than to folks further inland, so it might not be such a budget stretcher for people in, oh, say, the prairies. The recipe works best with a freshly steamed salmon fillet - even - a small one will do, but you can also used good quality pouch salmon, or Indian-style smoked salmon (as opposed to, say, lox, which wouldn't work so well). You don't need a lot of salmon to make a big, tasty pot of soup, though. The photo above does not show the tarragon, because I am an idiot who forgot to pick some up on my way home from work, and therefore did without. It was still tasty, by my gods, the tarragon adds something good. I added a big sprig of fresh thyme instead, which was pretty good.

Salmon Corn Chowder

Total Prep and Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

1 large onion, diced medium
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, chopped (or a rib of celery will do)
1 14 oz./400 ml can of creamed corn
1 to 1 1/2 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh-cut
2 diced waxy potatoes (such as red bliss)
2 medium carrots, diced
1 small salmon fillet, steamed and flaked into chunks
1 14 oz./400 ml can of evaporated milk
1 cup water
1 bayleaf
fresh tarragon to taste (go easy, it's strong)
olive oil for sauteing

If you're a soup-maker, you probably don't need more than the list above, to work it out. If not, try these directions:

In a large soup pot, heat a little olive oil and saute the onion, garlic, carrot, and leek/celery until barely translucent. Toss in the bayleaf, a small pinch of salt, a little pepper, and the corn kernels and stir about. Add the creamed corn, the potatoes and the evaporated milk, and stir gently but thoroughly. Add water to get to the consistency you like - around a cup to start. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer, and allow to cook gently, uncovered, for about ten or fifteen minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed - I like white pepper for making the soup itself, and black pepper as a serving garnish, but suit yourself.

As the potatoes cook through, they will release a little starch and thicken the chowder slightly. It is important to use a waxy potato, because the floury, baking kind will become mealy-textured in the finished soup. If you decide to make this with all fresh corn, you may want to puree some of it before adding to the soup, to get the texture and level of, er, "corniness" correct.

When the vegetables are tender and just cooked through, add the small chunks of salmon, and a tablespoon or two of fresh, finely chopped tarragon leaves. Let the soup continue to cook gently for another five minutes, taste for salt, and serve with crackers (the classic pairing) or hot biscuits (my favourite). Contemplate other chowders you could make...bacon and scallops? Chicken and chorizo? The many faces of clam chowder (New England, Rhode Island, Manhattan)? Potato and cheese? Start making a list.

January 04, 2009

Soup for the New Year (Simple Tomato Soup)

It's official: I'm on a soup jag.

Today's soup is Alphabet Vegetable. It is the product of my Simple Tomato Soup (expired link removed - see recipe in comments section below) merged with extra chopped vegetables (this version includes finely chopped celery, carrot, red bell pepper, and corn kernels) and alphabet pasta, along with extra water to be absorbed by the pasta. I showered the bowls with chopped parsley, after the photo was taken, because I though all of the green bits would obscure the actual pasta.

The alphabet pasta was found at Granville Island, after a long, futile search in the supermarkets of Vancouver (well, I found some vegetable-dyed whole wheat alphabets, but they looked vile; I am not a fan of whole wheat pasta), and turns out to be alphanumeric, actually. I don't know if this is standard or not, since I never had alphabet soup growing up, but the numbers are a bonus, I think.

Adding stuff to my soup increased the cooking time by about ten minutes - the extras were all added post original recipe - which meant that the veggies still had some texture. Essentially, it is the variation for Tomato Vegetable that is listed at the end of the recipe, plus a half-cup of alphabet pasta and an extra cup of water. If you like the granular mushiness of canned vegetable soup, you might want to add another fifteen minutes (or more) to obtain the level of mush you desire. You may, of course, use any vegetables you want, including potato, parsnip, peas, lima beans...

We had this for dinner last night with toasted cheese sandwiches (i.e. not grilled, per se), and extra crusty bread for mopping the bowls clean.

Soup is such comforting food, and really lovely for the vertical weather we've been experiencing. So many of them also keep well for second days, lunches, or freezer-treasure. Next soup I've set my sights on? Salmon Corn Chowder. Stay tuned.