We're hovering between summer and fall right now. Frost is predicted this week, with weekend temperatures approaching the eighties. What to cook, what to cook…
I've always thought of chowder as a hearty winter dish, but I realized it could just as easily straddle the seasons. I'd also had it lodged in my head that it should be cooked long and low, but that's not always true: the following recipe should NOT be overcooked.
The transitional chowder was inspired by the fact that I had a few ears of the last of the summer corn crop left over, and I didn't want to waste them. So this is a two-season dish.
4 cups of fish stock, fresh (stop laughing!) or from a jar or can or bottle
1½ lbs firm-fleshed white fish (cod, halibut, haddock) or salmon
2 oz. salt pork or bacon, diced
1 Tblsp butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 or more sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped from the woody stems
1 bay leaf
1 lb peeled potatoes, sliced about 1/3" thick
Salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup corn kernels (optional; if you don't have fresh, frozen are fine)
|This is cod|
Bring the fish stock to a simmer in a skillet and lay the fish in it. Cover and simmer until the fish is cooked through, about ten minutes (don't overcook it!). Remove the fish to a plate and set aside. When cool, flake the fish into bite-size pieces. Reserve the stock.
Heat a heavy pot over low heat, add the bacon, and cook slowly until some of the fat is rendered. Then turn up the heat and finish cooking the bacon until it is crisp. Remove the bacon and set aside, but leave the bacon fat in the pan.
Add the butter, chopped onions, thyme and bay leaf to the pot and sauté on medium heat until the onions are soft but not browned.
Add the peeled, sliced potatoes to the pan and pour in enough of the reserved stock to just cover them. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are not quite cooked.
Season generously with kosher or sea salt and pepper.
Add the flaked fish to the pot and heat over low heat, for about five minutes. Add the optional corn. Pour in the heavy cream and heat until the chowder is warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Sprinkle the crisp bacon bits over the individual servings. You can also garnish it with freshly chopped chives or parsley if you're so inclined.
And that's it. You'll notice that it really doesn't take long to make, and it's a tasty dish for a chilly autumn evening.