Thursday, March 1, 2012
Fish Chowder, Soupe de Poissons
Photo: Fish Chowder with Wakame garnish
Craig is a reader of cookbooks. He studies them, reading and re-reading, imagining, playing with his own versions, and combining ideas. What he also does is visualize. He reads new, ambitious ideas and imagines it. He imagines the textures that would be best, what that means in terms of time cooked. He imagines it through to the extent that it is as if he has already made it many times when he tries a recipe for the first time. He is also experienced enough to know when a recipe seems off, to dig in with further comparative research if it seems like there is an error in the recipe, which, especially in the case of magazines, there frequently are.
This time of year, he studies soups, chowders, stews. Right now, Fish Chowder, Soupe de Poissons. He read through the old, musty French cookbooks where the recipes are written in paragraphs with no quantities or measurements. And he found a new love: Joe Beef. Helpfully, the new Joe Beef cookbook had a chowder recipe (with quantities and measurements!). One especially gray and freezing day Craig went for it.
Craig has made this one twice now and it is unbelievably, earth stopping-ly delicious.
Roll up your sleeves; it is a many stepped labor, and worth every ounce of effort and concentration.
you'll need, among other items:
10 fresh shrimp (with heads if possible)
10 little neck clams
1 small and 1 larger piece of cod. about 1 lb total
I. The Clams
wash the clams and put in a saucepan with 1 cup minerally white wine, a bay leaf, a pinch of sea salt and a peeled garlic clove. cook over high heat until the clams open. remove meat, saving any juices. mince. strain the liquid through a extra fine sieve or cheese cloth. add minced clams to the liquid and reserve.
II. A Stock
to 6 cups of water add…
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 onions, diced
1 leek, diced
a handful of parsley stems
the shells and heads from the 10 aforementioned shrimp
the smaller piece of cod.
if augmenting the chowder with crab or lobster add those shells as well.
a few black pepper corns and a bay leaf.
cook over medium low heat, never allowing to boil, until the vegetables are soft and the fish falling apart. strain, pushing the solids through a extra fine sieve or cheese cloth to extract the liquid. reserve broth and discard the rest.
III. The Chowder
in a large enameled cast iron pot, over medium-low heat melt anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup of unsalted butter.
add: 3 diced onions, 3 sticks of celery also diced, about 1/4 lb of smokey slab bacon (or other porky thing to your liking. alternately you could sub some smokey fish or katsuo in the stock….cold smoke the onions first…you get the idea!)
cook until the onions and celery soften and the bacon is cooked but not crispy.
toss in a handful of flour and stir to absorb the butter and bacon fat.
add 2 large potatoes cut into large diced chunks. and stir.
pour in about 2 cups of the stock, 2 cups of whole milk and about a 1/2 cup of cream. cook over low heat until the potatoes are just about done.
cut the large piece of cod into chunks and put in the pot. when the cod turns opaque add the shrimp and when they blush let the clams (and their juice) join the party.
let the flavors blend for a few minutes then serve. garnish each bowl with chives and slivered celery leaves.
great with freshly made croutons or toast from a spectacular loaf of bread.