Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Seafood Chowder

We leave for a vacation in a couple of days, and I am trying to use as many of the fresh vegetables as I can before we leave. I somehow know that while we are away the kids won't be eating some of them, such as the half fennel bulb, zucchini and leek that were in the fridge.

There was some sole in the freezer, as well as a bit of corn, so I chose to make a seafood chowder. I bought some prawns and a small piece of cod to add to the sole. We had a healthy, filling and yummy meal, and I now have less vegetables to worry about.

I will be making ratatouille with the remaining zucchini, eggplant and red peppers and popping it into the freezer for when we return and need something in a hurry. This will make a great pasta sauce, and can be used as it is, or have some cooked meat added to it.

The two large russet potatoes will be turned into  Gnocchi  for tonight's dinner, and served with some braised beef leftovers that I had frozen.

Finely chop or slice:

1/2 fennel bulb
1 leek
2 medium carrots
1/2 zucchini

Place in a large pot with a bit of olive oil and cook over medium low heat, seasoning with salt and pepper, until starting to soften.

Add flour, stirring it in well and allowing it to cook for a couple of minutes.

You just need enough to coat all the vegetables lightly.

Add enough water to cover the vegetables.

Add in a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

Bring this to a boil.

When the water is boiling, add diced potatoes. I used about 1 1/2 cups of red potatoes.

Allow the soup to simmer until the potatoes and carrots are just tender.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Add in the frozen corn; I had about 1 cup.

Adjust the consistency of the soup by adding milk. Keep the soup simmering, if it boils the milk will scorch.

Prepare you fish while the soup is simmering.

I used:

3 sole fillets, cubed
1 small piece of cod, cubed
6 large prawns, peeled

Add all of the fish to the soup, and allow it to simmer until cooked through. This only takes a few minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning and consistency if needed. Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley into the chowder and serve with warm crusty bread.

  •  This is a basic chowder recipe, and can be used for fish, chicken or just vegetables. Using vegetable or chicken stock will add to the intensity of the broth.
  • Using whipping cream or half and half will increase the richness of the chowder.
  • Keep the size of the vegetables similar, that way they will cook at the same time. There is nothing worse than one mushy bite and one hard crunchy bite when eating soup. I usually aim for cutting them around the same size as the corn. This time I chose to slice some and dice some, for variety.
  • During the summer, grill some extra corn on the cob, and shave the kernels off to add to the chowder. 
  • Cook some chopped bacon in the pot before adding the vegetables (I like to drain off the bacon fat after it is cooked). This will add a smoky dimension to your chowder.
  • Different types of fish require different cooking times. Either add those that take longer to cook in first, to give them a head start, or cut them accordingly - bigger for quicker cooking types and smaller for longer cooking types.
  • Frozen fish works well in a chowder, and can be cheaper than fresh. 
  • Mussels, oysters or scallops in the shell can be added right at the end. Partially cover the soup and let them steam open. The liquor released by them will add another layer of flavour to your broth.
  • Consider peeling your shellfish first. Cook the shells with a bit of olive oil to release the flavour, then add your stock to these and allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes before adding it to the soup.
  • Another way to add flavour to your broth is to save the cooking water from fresh crab or lobster, and use that for your broth. Add even more flavour to that by using fresh herbs, garlic or onion, and halved lemons to the water before adding in the crab or lobster.
  • Canned clams can be used as well. Add them right at the end, just to heat them through. The liquid from the can can also be added to the broth if you like.
  • Add brightness to the broth by adding fresh lemon zest and juice just before serving, and sprinkle with chopped fresh dill.
  • Use spices to add heat - cayenne, chili flakes - or sweetness - fennel or anise seeds.
  • Add fresh garlic; use onions or shallots instead of leeks; add diced red peppers, sweet or hot; celery is also a great choice.
  • Before adding the main liquid, consider adding a shot of Pernod, to emphasize the liquorice taste of the fennel, or simply add in some white wine.


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