Earlier in the week, before the sun came out, it seemed the right kind of weather for some New England clam chowder. Just to underscore the point, Mother Nature decided to dump rain on me while I was at the market shopping for the ingredients. But I was not to be deterred. I managed to procure the necessities, including a salmon carcass with which to make fish stock.
I know, you’re not supposed to use salmon for fish stock. Well, I had originally intended to just buy a few fish scraps for the cat, but the fishmonger(ess) informed me that she only sold scraps in 3 euro lots. I didn’t want nearly that much, so when she offered up the salmon carcass, I took it. The cat wasn’t nearly as excited about her gift as I had hoped*, so I was left wondering what to do with the majority of this salmon carcass. (Don’t worry, I cut the salmon into pieces before trying to give it to the cat – what I gave her, she kept, and the rest stayed clean.) Then it dawned on me that I could use it to make stock for the clam chowder instead of using my precious chicken stock. Personally, I think the fish stock made with salmon came out just fine. I had to skim a little more than usual, but no more than your average chicken stock.
Stock at the ready, I began the preparations for the chowder. All good chowders start with bacon, at least in my house. So I cut a few slices of smoked bacon into small pieces and set them in a saucepan over low heat to render. I put in a little butter to help it get going, because, as one of my chef-instructors used to say, “a little bit of butter helps the bacon fat go down.”
While the bacon cooked, I steamed the clams in a little fish stock.
I reserved the resulting clam juice-enriched liquid to use in the chowder. When the bacon was getting nice and crisp, I added a diced onion to the pot and scraped the bottom to pick up the fond.
Once the onions were beginning to soften, I added a minced garlic clove and a pinch of flour. I stirred these around until the garlic was aromatic and the flour evenly coated everything. Next I whisked in the fish stock (to ensure there would be no lumps of flour in the final dish) and added some diced potatoes. I put in some fresh thyme and a bay leaf and brought the whole mess up to a simmer.
When the potatoes were tender, about 15 minutes later, I added the clam meat and stirred in some cream. I fished out the bay leaf, adjusted the seasoning, and served the chowder with bread and a Riesling from Alsace. (Bacon and potatoes being staples of the Alsatian diet, plus the bottle said the wine went well with seafood. Sounds like a good match to me.)
If you look closely at the spoon, you can see Nick taking this photo, as well as the awesome exposed beams in the ceiling. At any rate, it was a hearty and satisfying meal. Now, does anyone have any suggestions as to what I should do with all this leftover fish stock?
*She did, however, love the couple bites of clam Nick gave her.