It’s that time of the year in my neck of the woods when spring displays its eagerness to kick winter to the curb by giving us signs of what’s to come. This means that it is perfectly normal here in the Bay Area to see locals in flip flops and shorts one day only to be back in a sweater and scarf the next. The official start of spring is only 10 days away. My wisteria vines are starting to flower and a scattering of daffodils have popped up around my yard. But today, even after the fog finally burned off, a chill remained in the air. In fact, it was overcast in my neighborhood for most of the day. Perhaps it was winter’s way of saying that this is still her show.
And you won’t hear any complaints from me. Even our mild northern California winters are perfect for hearty, comforting fare like this chowder I prepared today. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect–I’d been having trouble deciding on a recipe to select for this month’s Blogger C.L.U.E. Society event. I was assigned to Heather’s blog, Girlichef, for a recipe for this month’s theme–potatoes or a comforting starchy food– and it’s all her fault that I couldn’t decide what to make, until today.
Heather has been blogging for six years. A culinary school graduate with a serious passion for cooking and serving people good food, she finds inspiration for new dishes through her travels, books and movies. This means that she always finds herself in her kitchen bringing inspiration to fruition.
Six years of recipes in Heather’s archives had me printing one recipe after another for days instead of selecting just one and sticking with it–and I was just looking at the potato category. She had a recipe that spoke to each of my recent cravings: Adobo Potatoes Gratin, Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, Fingerling Potato Salad with Honey-Thyme Vinaigrette and this Italian Sausage and Potato Frittata. I wanted to make them all but the chill I felt this morning (coupled with a promise to my husband that I would serve salmon tonight for dinner) made her Smoked Salmon Chowder the winner.
I couldn’t stop “tasting” this soup as soon as it was ready. After sampling for the first time, I was happy with it but I couldn’t help returning to the stove a few more times for one more chunk of smoked salmon or potato with a caper or two. This chowder is better than a blanket draped on your shoulders on a cold day. It is substantial thanks to the chunks of salmon and potatoes while the capers lend a nice punch of brightness to balance the creaminess of the broth.
The only adjustments I made were to use what ingredients I already had and to lighten up the soup a little so that my husband could enjoy it with me. As much as I like rich, creamy soups, my husband prefers them on the lighter side. Here I used less half-and-half and just a touch of cream cheese and used clam juice with the water to make up for the smaller amount of smoked salmon (which is responsible for imparting a lot of flavor) I had available. Served with my homemade sourdough bread this chowder was the comfort I wanted on this cold winter day…so much so that I wouldn’t mind even if winter stuck around just a little longer.
Scroll down below for my friends’ dishes for this month’s theme.
Smoked Salmon Chowder
- 14 ounces red new potatoes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 3 stalks celery diced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 - 4 cups clam juice or water
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 - 3 cups milk half and half, low fat or regular (See Note)
- 4 ounces cream cheese I used two tablespoons
- 1/4 cup capers rinsed and drained
- 12 ounces smoked salmon or 8 ounces smoked and 4 ounces regular salmon
- salt or no-salt seasoning to taste
Prepare the potatoes: scrub and rinse and boil until barely tender, about 6-7 minutes. Drain and dice when cool enough to handle. Set aside.
In a stock pot, heat the two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and sauté until they are translucent, five to seven minutes. Add the garlic and black pepper and cook for an additional minute.
Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle the flour a little at a time. Cook for about five minutes over medium heat to eliminate the floury flavor.
Add the tomato paste, water/clam juice and potatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the milk, cream cheese (if using), capers and salmon. Keep the heat at medium until the soup hits a simmer. Turn off the heat and taste for seasoning. Add salt or no-salt seasoning as needed. Garnish with parsley if you like and serve hot with bread.
The original recipe calls for roughly six cups of liquid. In order to lighten this up to suit my family I used 4 1/2 cups of clam juice/water and 1 1/2 cups half and half. Feel free to adjust to your taste.
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