Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crab & Potato Chowder

A reader sent me a message asking for a chowder recipe, one she could freeze and then serve to her two young boys.

Chowder is exactly along lines of the "warmer, heavier meals using root vegetables, grains, and stocks, made into hearty casseroles, stews and soups," I said I'd be focusing on as we head into the coldest months of the year.

Chowder in the US is available in 3 varieties:
1) Corn, which has a maize or corn and potato base
2) Clam, which is milk based, and
3) Manhattan, which has a tomato base.

The original chowder was essentially a fresh fish and shell-fish stew, probably made on the wharfs by Breton fisherman in Newfoundland.

And like Bouillabaisse, a thick fish stew which originated in Provence, France, the origins of chowder are thus also French.

What I take away from the above is the understanding that chowder is stew-like and it sometimes contains fish, shell-fish, vegetables, herbs. Sometimes it's made with a fish or chicken stock, sometimes a milk or tomato base.

In other words, there's room for creativity and innovation when making chowder.

Because, Jo, my reader, wants to freeze her chowder, I'm steering away from a milk base stew. I don't think milk in savory dishes freezes well; it tends to separate.

Keeping in mind that root veggies abound right now, I'm starting with a potato and leek-base soup made with chicken stock (pic above).

You may have read my method for preparing Celeriac, Pear & Leek Soup last week. If so, you'll note that this combination of ingredients sounds like another soup I referred to, Vichyssoise, which contains potatoes and leeks.

Like corn and potato chowder, the leeks and potato will create a thick, flavorful base into which I'll add some shell-fish and fish.

Today, Whole Foods has a sale on Golden King Crab Legs (pic below), so I bought two legs, plus a handful of White Raw Shrimp (also on sale this week). And in my freezer I have a Whole Catch packet of Mahi Mahi. I've unfrozen one fillet and I'll add that to my chowder as well.

Now, Jo is a working mum, so I don't want to overwhelm her with detail. Therefore, my recipe includes shortcuts for those readers who don't have the time or inclination to make stock. And it also includes options so that you can make my chowder recipe work for your palate, wallet and schedule.

Crab & Potato Chowder
1) You can either begin by making your own stock or you can use a box of Organic Chicken Broth. If you make your own stock, add a couple bay leaves, a sprig of tarragon, and several black peppercorns into the pot, covering the chicken pieces with water and simmering it for about 1 hour.
2) Pour stock (or two boxes of broth) into another pot, add 2-3 washed and chopped potatoes, and two chopped and washed leeks. If you wish, add a cup of frozen corn kernels.
3) Simmer stock and veggies until veggies are soft. At this point you can pulse the lot in a blender or not. If not, then your chowder will be extra chunky.
4) You now have a soup base which you can cool and freeze. When ready to use, simply unfreeze.
5) Meanwhile, saute your choice of fish and or shellfish-- like raw shrimp, fresh or frozen crab meat, fresh or frozen clams--in a little oil and chopped garlic until tender (don't overcook). Add the cooked fish to the unfrozen soup and gently simmer together for about 30 mins.
6) Or follow step 5, adding your choice of seafood, which you've sauteed in a little garlic oil, to your freshly made soup base, simmer together, and then cool, freezing the chowder for consumption later.

To Serve: Either you're serving your chowder freshly made, or you've unfrozen and heated it. Add half and half or full-cream milk; the quantity is up to you, depending on how creamy you like your chowder. Obviously the milk and cream are optional. Season, and sprinkle the top with crushed crackers, toasted croutons, or serve chunky pieces of bread on the side.

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