Wednesday, November 18, 2009

seafood chowder for a cold autumn day

The wind and the rain have moved in.

This is fall – and winter – on Vancouver Island.

Suddenly, it’s time to wear mittens and scarves (I am a bit of a wimp), and it seems like the heartier herbs are the only survivors in the garden – especially the parsley.

And it’s halibut season! Fishermen are braving the winds off the Island and hauling halibut in to the local seafood section, just for me. I’ve been trying to make the most of having local fish . . . but woman cannot live on halibut alone, so I’ve added a couple other sea creatures and that hearty parsley.

And – voila! – we have seafood chowder. Creamy and comforting, it’s just what we need for dinner on a cold fall night. (Can’t you just see how cold it was outside when I went to take a picture of the soup? My fingers nearly became icicles trying to get the right shot!)

If you can, use fresh parsley – it really gives life to the broth.

This recipe is adapted from Flora MacDonald’s recipe for Nova Scotia seafood chowder. Flora lives in Martins Point, Nova Scotia and is a wonderful cook. If anyone knows how to cook seafood, it’s Flora.

seafood chowder

serves 6

2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. oil
1 c. celery, chopped
1 1/3 c. carrots, chopped
3/4 c. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. potatoes, diced
1 tsp. salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vinegar
5 – 7 c. vegetable stock (this can be a combination of liquid stock and water and a stock cube)
1 – 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced (or 1 tsp. dried) – reserve half to garnish
1/2 lb. (225 g.) halibut, cut up into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb. (225 g.) scallops
1/4 - 1/2 lb. (113 - 225 g.) shrimp
2 c. milk (the higher the milk fat the better)
3/4 c. blend or coffee cream (11 to 18% milk fat)
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch

Heat heavy pot over low-medium heat. Add the butter, oil, celery, carrots and onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion has softened. Add the garlic for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add the potatoes, salt, sugar, vinegar, stock and half the parsley. Cook until the potatoes are almost done.

Add the seafood and bring to a boil. Simmer till the seafood is just done.

Add the milk and cream and bring the whole soup almost back to a light simmer. Take out a few tablespoons of the liquid and mix it with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Stir the cornstarch mixture into the soup and bring it back to a light boil for a few minutes. (Don’t boil it too long or the cornstarch will get tired and become thin again.) This is not a thick soup, but the cornstarch makes it a tiny bit thicker.

Finally, stir in the reserved parsley and serve.

This soup tastes just as good, if not better, the next day.

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