Toward the end of winter, just when I've about lost any desire for another soup or long-cooked braise, I go to the freezer to find an abundance of summer seafood: halibut and yelloweye I caught in Cordova last July as well as salmon and Prince William Sound spot prawns from generous friends. It's a reminder that in the months ahead we'll be going back out to the water and sunshine.
In the meantime, I'll cook with what I have. Frozen fish, especially salmon, holds up well to bold flavors, so I often make marinades with ginger, garlic and soy sauce, or whiz up fresh herbs and chilies for salsa to serve on the side. My family also loves chowder, and it's a simple and quick way to honor last summer's catch.
You can vary this with the seafood you have on hand. I throw in everything from shrimp and oysters to cod and clams; sometimes I add some diced bacon when sautéing the vegetables. As for the base, I like to use fish stock and finish with some cream, but if you prefer a milky version, make sure to add a bit more seasoning. A crusty crouton with garlicky mayo adds some kick to the overall richness of the chowder itself.
Makes 6 servings
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 medium potatoes, cut into ¼-inch cubes (about 14 ounces)
1 shallot, diced
Salt and freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 cups fish stock or milk or water
10 ounces corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 pound Alaska cod, skin and bones removed, cut into chunks
1/2 pound salmon fillet, pinbones and skin removed, cut into chunks
1 pound clams in the shell, scrubbed and purged, if needed (see note below) or 1 pint fresh shucked oysters
3 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
Fresh chopped parsley, dill, or basil for garnish
Garlic-mayo croutons (recipe follows)
Melt butter in a very large soup pot set over medium-high heat. Add celery, potatoes, and shallot; cook, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Add the garlic and sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Slowly add the stock and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart.
Stir in corn, cream and cayenne. Add cod and salmon and stir; add cleaned clams and cover the pot. Bring the liquid back to a gentle boil and cook, stirring gently once or twice, until most of the clams have opened, this should only take a few minutes once the broth comes back to a gentle boil.
As soon as the clams open, remove the pot from the heat. Be careful not to overcook the seafood. Stir in the green onion and fresh herbs. Taste and add more salt or pepper or garlic.
NOTE: If using milk or water you'll have to season more than if using fish stock. Serve hot. Spread the garlic mayo on the bread and float on top of the chowder and serve with hot sauce on the side.
To clean clams in the shell: Rinse in cold water and place in a bowl with 1 tablespoon cornmeal and cool/cold water to cover. Let sit with cornmeal about 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.
1 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, finely minced garlic
A pinch of paprika
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup mayonnaise with two finely minced garlic cloves, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of smoked paprika. Taste and add more garlic, lemon, or paprika to taste. Serve on toasted baguette or other crusty bread slices and float on top of the chowder.