And with Autumn comes the simplicity and joy of just playing in the leaves...
And also chowder. This recipe will warm you on those chilly days, but is not nearly as heavy as braising something. I'm not quite ready for the heavy winter braising. This chowder will remind you of days with more sunlight and less frost and things that are green, yet, will warm you right to the bone. Just perfect for right after jumping in a fat pile of leaves.
As an aside, I load this recipe with prawns. My kids always ask for extra prawns and if there isn't enough, there's hell to pay. And, as you know, I always avoid the hell to pay.
"To Hell with Summer" Seafood Chowder
6 ounces meaty salt pork, rind removed or slab bacon, and diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
A pinch of tarragon
1 dried bay leaf
2 lbs small red potatoes, skin on, sliced into quarters
5 cups shrimp stock (See Note 1)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb skinless haddock, catfish, monk fish or cod fillets, preferably over 1 inch thick, pinbones removed (See Note 2)
2 lbs of uncooked, shrimp with shells on (use shells for stock)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (depending on how thick you want your chowder)
8 chives, cut with scissors into fine pieces
Several handfuls of fresh or frozen corn
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley (garnish)
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives (garnish)
1. Cooking Note: Shrimp stock can be made simply from the shells of the shrimp you are using for this recipe. Just add to a pot whole a small whole onion, 2 whole carrots and a few stalks of celery. Sweat them a little in oil and butter. Add shells to the aromatics. Sweat those for a couple minutes. Add a little splash of white wine, if you want. Salt and pepper. Add water. Let simmer - but not boil - for a half hour. Voila! Home-made shrimp stock. Betcha cant' buy that at Whole Foods! I usually make this the day before so I'm not making chowder and stock at the same time.
2. Cooking Note: You can use any combination of your favorite seafood - don't let me box you in - clams, scallops, mussels, lobster, go nuts. Just make sure you know cooking times for the seafood you choose. You don't want a pot of over-cooked shrimp and under-cooked lobster. If you need help with that, ask your fish guy. They usually know.
Heat a soup pot over low heat and add the diced salt pork or bacon. Cook until the pork is a crisp golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cracklings to a dish, leaving the fat in the pot.
Add the butter, onions, thyme and bay leaf to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes. The onions should be soft and caramelized, but not fried.
Add the potatoes and stock. The stock should cover the potatoes. If it doesn't add water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook the potatoes vigorously for about 10 minutes, until they are soft on the outside, but firm in the center. Smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot and cook for a minute or two longer to release their starch. This will thicken the broth a bit.
If you feel you have too much broth and your chowder might be too soupy, remove some broth with a ladle to a bowl and set aside. You can always add more to the pot if you need it. If you end up having extra broth, freeze it for your next chowder.
Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper. Add the fish fillets and cook over low heat for a couple minutes. Add corn at the same time. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes. The fish will finish cooking in the pot.
Gently stir in the cream and taste for salt and pepper. You can refrigerate the soup and reheat later or eat it immediately but I like to let it sit a bit. Just don't stir it a lot or you'll break up the fish. This recipe cannot handle lots of fussing. Just season and leave it.
Add cracklings. Serve with minced chives and parsley, either in individual crocks or in a single pot brought right to the table.