Wednesday, April 01, 2015

the awesomeness that is chowder

I've been contemplating making a rib-sticking chowder for weeks, now, and I finally went ahead and did it. I had originally wanted to do a proper New England clam chowder, but I decided to ditch the clams in favor of other proteins: bacon, salmon, and scallops.

My local grocer had the salmon and scallops; I bought a W7,900 frozen chunk of salmon and a W15,000 pack of eleven large diver scallops. The bacon, pre-prepped, came from Costco as a W9,900 bag. When I got the salmon home, I saw it had skin—which I didn't want—so I set a pan on very, very low heat, rested the salmon on the pan, and waited for that part of the meat to melt so I could get in there with a knife and peel the skin off.

Below, you see most of the ingredients that went into today's chowder: corn, heavy cream, Korean mushrooms, a rather zesty celery, salmon, bacon, and scallops. Conspicuously absent from this photo are some other invited guests: onion (I used dried onion, so there was little motivation to photograph that), parsley (same: dried), and the old remains of a bag of potatoes—perfectly usable, which I de-rooted, peeled, and diced small. Salt and pepper to taste. I fried up the shrooms and celery to soften and caramelize for a bit of extra flavor.

In the next photo, below, you see the ingredients after they've been dumped together in the deep, nonstick pot in which I cooked the chowder. Soon to be added: diced potatoes and cream. I used two forks to flake the salmon apart.

The potatoes, I confess, had been forgotten until the very last moment. After I diced them up, I put the bowl of raw potato in the microwave and let everything cook for ten minutes to accelerate the softening process. Worked like a charm. One thing you don't want to do with chowder is let it stew for a long time as if it were beef stew—especially if the chowder contains seafood. Seafood is easily overcooked; scallops, in particular, turn to hard rubber when they're overdone. Raw potatoes would have lengthened the chowder's cooking time.*

The soup base was heavy cream, which could have been oppressively heavy had I not added water. Not just any water, mind you: when I dumped in the cans of corn, I dumped in the cans' water as well. That turned out to be a good thing.

I let the chowder simmer, allowing the flavors to marry. It smelled incredible. When I tasted the creamy broth to see whether the chowder needed salt, I was rewarded with an explosion of flavor: I could taste everything in the cream itself: the corn, the salmon, the scallops—positively everything. It was amazing. I suddenly wished I had someone to share this deliciousness with, but the best I can do, Dear Reader, is show you some photos like the one below. Oh, I did end up adding a wee bit of salt and pepper, but barely enough to make a difference: the chowder was already nearly perfect. Behold:

At long last, I ladled my chowder, this labor of love, into a large tea mug and sat down to eat it with some hunks of bread. Sweet Jesus, that was amazing. Of course, I've made enough chowder to last me several days; I have a sinking feeling that, unlike certain other foods, chowder won't improve with age, but I'll store it as scrupulously as I can in the hopes that it won't quickly go bad inside the fridge. Here's my mug of chowder:

*Experienced cooks are probably asking themselves, "Well, why not just let the potatoes and bacon and mushrooms simmer and infuse for a long time in the chowder, then just add the seafood at the last minute so it all cooks up perfectly?" It's a good question, but I made a command decision to let the seafood flavors infuse into the creamy broth for as long as possible without overcooking either the salmon or the scallops.



Charles said...

Looks (and sounds) tasty!

On the problem of seafood cooking very quickly, I've always used a different solution. I parboil the seafood first, then shell/debone/whatever as necessary and throw the shells/bones/whatever back into the water to boil for an hour or so, leaving me with a condensed stock. I then cook the other ingredients in the stock, add the milk/cream when everything is done, and then toss the seafood back in to finish cooking.

Granted, this would not have worked with the ingredients you have--you really need a whole fish for that. It's also very time- and labor-intensive.

That being said, your version looks plenty tasty as is... and it's making me hungry.

Kevin Kim said...

Damn. That sounds as labor-intensive as making consommé does. And I've written about that before.

Charles said...

Yeah, it is. If I have time, though, it does make for a nice chowder.

Man, thinking about chowder reminds me of the awesome fish chowder I had on Cape Cod last summer. It was a thing of beauty.

Actually, I was curious about the salmon--most fish chowders I've had have had white-fleshed fish in them. Salmon tends to be very oily, though. I was just wondering if that affected the flavor in any way.

Kevin Kim said...

In northern Virginia, a restaurant called the Bonefish Grill serves a crab-and-corn chowder that's pretty damn flavorful; my salmon was, I think, a partial riff off that idea. The salmon works out wonderfully, as it happens; this may be, in part, because the salmon's flavor mingles with that of the other proteins—the scallop and the bacon. Especially the bacon.