I'm not the biggest fan of salmon, and Dan doesn't like potatoes (I know, right?), and yet, thumbing through the new (and very first) Epicurious cookbook, I paused at a recipe for salmon chowder. It was light pink with big flakes of fish throughout plus corn kernels, baby potatoes, crispy bacon and lots of chives on top. A bowl of creamy chowder seemed like the perfect thing to eat on an icy winter night. Potatoes be damned.
To go with the chowder, I made some quick dill pickles from the same cookbook. You soak sliced English cukes in cider vinegar, dry mustard, chili flakes, sugar and fresh dill. And that's basically it. I served them, as recommended, with some grainy bread and a soft cheese. They were spicy, crisp and a little sweet, fantastic with goat cheese and a white wine. We ate everything so fast I forgot to take a picture.
As addictive as those little pickles were, you probably don't want pickles to be the best part of a dinner, and thankfully the salmon chowder turned out to be as delicious as it looked in the cookbook.
The salty bacon and sweet corn balanced out the oiliness of the fish, and the potatoes weren't found to be offensive by the resident potato-hater. And our guest, who is pretty health-conscious, didn't find the creamy broth to be too rich. (It's made with milk and a little cream, which keeps things on the lighter side.) The soup was really great with warm, crusty on top corn muffins (Jiffy mix, my old standby) that were almost left in the oven to burn.
Everyone had seconds of the chowder and then the recipe was requested, first in person, and then the next day via email. Which is the best compliment you can get, really.
Pickles with whole grain bread and goat cheese
Simple arugula salad
Via Epicurious. The recipe calls for a bit of lemon, which is essential for brightening up the dish, but it also made the chowder curdle a bit. Don't worry if this happens -- it might look weird but it tastes just fine.
1/2 lb. red potatoes
1/2 lb. sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
2 cups chopped scallions
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. dried hot red pepper flakes (or to taste)
3 cups whole milk (I used 2 percent)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 lb. piece salmon fillet, skin discarded and fish cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish
Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes, then cook in a large (5 quart) saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
Clean and dry the pot, then cook the bacon in a over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot, then cook scallions, corn, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes in fat in pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until scallions are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add milk and cream and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to moderately low, then add potatoes, salmon, bacon, salt, and pepper and cook, gently stirring occasionally, until salmon is just cooked through and begins to break up as you stir, 5 to 8 minutes.
Stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf before serving. Garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately.