This weekend marks the reprise of Camp Squid! Instead of going to the ocean this time, we are packing up and heading for the mountains, where there will be a firepit, a hot tub, and, hopefully, some snow!
A cozy weekend calls for cozy food, most of which will be supplied by Daniel, natch.
But I am not completely useless in the kitchen, so I will be making a specialty of mine – smoked salmon corn chowder:
Although I love a good New England chowder, this is a more Northwest version. It isn’t thick and creamy like New England clam chowder, but milky and briny. The stars of the soup are salty, smoky salmon, and sweet corn, with tender red potatoes and celery. Sometimes I add carrots too.
Like most good soups, there isn’t really a “recipe” because it is so simple, but here is my ingredient list and simple description of how I usually make it. I have no idea how much of each ingredient I use; that is something you can just eyeball as you put together the soup. If you want a really indulgent chowder, increase the smoked salmon and add some heavy cream. If you love potatoes, add more! If you like the way some of the potatoes disintegrate and thicken the chowder, try adding some starchy potatoes like russets in with the waxy red potatoes. This would be great with fresh corn, but frozen is perfectly acceptable, too.
Smoked Salmon Corn Chowder
- 1 onion, 3-4 stalks celery, and 1 carrot, all diced (carrot optional) (mirepoix!!!)
- some fat – butter or bacon fat are best
- maybe some white wine would be nice in here…
- about 2 tbsp flour
- 8 oz. smoked salmon (or more! It is delicious with more!)
- half a bag of frozen corn
- 4-6 cups chicken stock (if you want to be a BAMF, warm the chicken stock in a separate pan so it is not cold when you ladle it into your mirepoix-roux).
- waxy potatoes, cut into 1/2″ dice (red potatoes add a nice color)
- half and half (milk is ok if you don’t have cream, but don’t boil it!)
- salt (never forget the salt!)
In a big pot, melt the fat and cook the mirepoix over medium heat until the carrots are mostly softened. Now, I would normally salt here because it helps the veggies release their moisture, but since the salmon is probably pretty salty, just give it a little sprinkling of salt.
At this point, you can deglaze the pan with a little white wine. Then stir in a little bit of flour and let it cook until it is golden. If you don’t let the roux cook a little, your soup will taste floury. (The flour coated veggies will look pretty gross right now. I am pretty sure you aren’t technically supposed to make a roux with veggies in the pot already, but do you think this honey badger cares?)
Once the roux is golden brown, slowly ladle in some of the chicken stock. Whisk the stock around so it is absorbed by the flour with no lumps. Scrape the bottom on the pan to get all that good fond off.
Pour in the rest of the chicken stock, then add your salmon, potatoes, and corn. Bring to a boil and let the soup gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, but not disintegrating (maybe 15 minutes). At this point, it is best to turn the heat way down (or off) and just let those flavors sit and mellow. Salt the soup!
Just before you are ready to serve, turn the heat back up and add the half and half. You don’t want to boil it once the half and half is in, but you can simmer a little. Taste for salt one more time, and serve. Daniel the garnish king suggests topping the soup with some chives for maximum pretty.