Doing the Chowder Cha-Cha
Today I gave in to my craving for salmon chowder. This is not usually a summer recipe- must have been the cool weather this week. I had been ignoring said craving because I didn't have any salmon, but when I went to Costco today, they had wild-caught sockeye salmon(way better than farm-raised) on sale with a $3 off coupon! I took that as a sign that I should make some chowder and even bought some extra salmon for the freezer. I buy it in long fillets and then cut them into individual servings before freezing them. Cut a 1.5-2 lb fillet into 8 pieces, freeze them in 2 separate bags and voila- two dinners at your disposal!
Let me warn you that this soup doesn't exactly classify as a chowder in my book because it's pretty healthy. It's not rich and creamy like chowders typically are, but I love it and if the recipe wants to call it a chowder then so be it. The best thing about soups is that you don't really need exact quantities. If you like one vegetable a lot, put more of that in, if you don't like another, leave it out! Totally personalize-able and you can't really mess it up.
I like to cook the salmon first so it can cool down enough for you to flake it apart. In a pinch, you can used canned salmon, but in my opinion it's not nearly as good. You can also you crabmeat instead of salmon...or both! Lots of options...anyways, season your salmon with some pepper and cook all the way through. Mine is cut because I was freezing the extra but cutting isn't necessary since you'll be flaking it anyways:
Once it has cooled a little, use a fork to flake it into smaller pieces and discard the skin:
Set this aside for later use, safely out of reach of all animals-after giving them a taste of course ;)
Now for the rest of the soup:
The vegetables I used were onion, carrot, celery, green pepper, potato, corn & zucchini. Feel free to leave out anything you don't like or add in whatever else you have laying around.
Some tips: 1) Smash your cloves of garlic with the flat side of your knife and the skin will peel right off. 2) Instead of cutting your peppers in half and scooping off the seeds, cut all four sides off. It leaves the stem and seeds in one piece for easy disposal!
Saute the onion, carrot, celery and green pepper in a big pot with some garlic. I said I would try to specify quantities...so I used 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 an onion, 1/2 a green pepper, 7-8 baby carrots and 2 stalks of celery.
Next: Broth. You can use whatever kind of broth or stock you prefer...chicken, vegetable, fish...but if you're using it from a can, check the sodium. I've found a couple of vegetable broths with SIGNIFICANTLY less sodium than even the low sodium chicken broth I used to use. Another option, make your own!!! Making vegetable broth is one of the easiest things to do and it can cut an incredible amount of salt out of a meal. Just throw a pot of vegetables on the stove, cover with water and let them simmer for an hour or so. Then season with some pepper and a pinch of salt, strain out the vegetables and you're all set. You don't need to peel the vegetables or even cut them up very small. Peel the very outer layer of an onion off if it looks dirty, quarter it and throw it in. Add carrots, celery(especially the leaves) mushroom, peppers (cut them in half), corn, broccoli, squash...literally whatever you've got in your veggie drawer. This is a great way to use up some veggies that are a little wilted or might be slightly past their prime. Once the broth cools, I freeze mine in small containers or ziplock bags and then you always have them when you need them! Next time I make some, I'll take some pictures!!
So, you need enough broth to cover the veggies, a can or two should be plenty...or a frozen block like mine. Defrost in the microwave or just throw it in the pot.
Once the potatoes are fork tender, add half a zucchini, diced, and 1/2 - 3/4 cup of corn--look for the low sodium kind of you're using canned and give it a rinse before adding, or buy some at the store/farmer's market, give it a quick steam, cut it off the cob and freeze it like I do.
Now is also when you throw in the salmon. Last but not least, add about 2 cups of milk, preferably skim, and a teaspoon or so of Old Bay seasoning. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes and you're all set :)
Serve with some good Italian bread and feel free to add more milk or broth the next day when you reheat the leftovers. Enjoy!