Fresh Salmon Chowder

My version of this soup is not as thick as a traditional chowder. The tastes here are so fine, so delicate, that it’s shame to mask them in a thicker broth.  However, so much in cooking is a matter of personal opinion and that’s one of the things that I love:  that you can take a basic recipe – yours or anyone else’s – and adapt, improvise and change it to make it your very own. Along those lines, if you reduce the liquid content of this recipe, you’ll end up with something much closer to a fish stew than a soup – and that might be exactly what you want on a cold day at anchor or at home.

You’ll need:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped leeks
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup chopped celery
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes or
1 ½ lbs of fingerlings, cut into cubes and roasted at 350 for half an hour

Most chowders that include potatoes call for them to be cubed and simmered – boiled, really – in the stock.  I prefer to use fingerlings, roasted.  They hold their texture and a ‘real potato taste.’  Sometimes, the cubed and ‘boiled’ russet can be too floury which, again, detracts from the elegance of the fresh salmon and the dainty tastes of the leeks, shallots and celery.

2 cups fish stock (fumet)
or a shell stock – see my Crab Bisque recipe
2 cups half-and-half
1 lb salmon, cut into small cubes
½ lb smoked salmon cut into small squares
2 tablespoons minced chives
Sea salt and ground white pepper

What you do:

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the leeks and shallots and cook until soft.  Do not brown.

If you’re using a cubed russet, add the potatoes and fish stock and simmer until the potatoes are cooked.  If you’re using roasted fingerlings, you’ll only add them to the soup at the last moment, for just long enough to warm them through.

Stir in the half-and-half and heat until just beginning to boil.  Add the thyme and a squeeze of lemon, then add the salmon and cook for one to two minutes. At the last moment add the smoked salmon.  This final ingredient adds an unforgettable, subtle smoky flavor to this dish.

Season with salt and pepper and serve in soup bowls topped with minced chives.