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.



_

4 comments:

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.