Monday, July 14, 2008

Seafood Chowder at Home

Well, cooking for Michael is a bit of a challenge. He doesn't like HEAT- any HEAT- and this to a cook who cooks for a man who believes the only choice is between jalapenos with the seeds versus jalapenos without the seeds- not leaving the jalapenos out entirely! But Michael does like seafood- and a lot of it- even likes sushi, which is not a universal taste- at least not in our family. But with the order- NO HEAT- and YES SEAFOOD. So a chowder seemed just the thing. I actually did this chowder for Don and me over Christmas.
So I opened the cookbook, How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. Mr. Bittman does a great column every Wednesday in the NYTimes- worth taking the whole paper for a week just for the column. Here is my take....

You start with 4 slices of bacon cut into small pieces...

(Amber and other vegetarians- skip this part), And then remove the bacon and set aside for use later.

I should have started by listing the "prep" work for your live in "prep" chef (that's me for those of you who might be wondering)- cut 1onion into small pieces (1 cup), 2-3 white, thin skin potatoes (2 or so cups- more or less to personal preference- we used less), 1-2 tsp of fresh thyme (I used 2- can use dried if that's all you have- and it is a bit better), 2-4 cloves of garlic (or more- also depends on exactly how much you like garlic- or how much you think it will in fact improve your health), 2 ears of corn- cut off the cob (can use frozen if not making in the middle of this most gorgeous of seasons- absolutely fantastic corn on the cob- at Christmas I used frozen), 2-3 carrots (also dependent on personal taste), red or yellow pepper (now exactly how much do you like color- I can get a bit crazy about here- though Don does try to rein me in).

Add the onions to the hot grease (bacon that is- but if you're vegetarian start with 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil), and cook until the colors glisten.
Then add the garlic, potatoes and carrots and peppers... for about 15 minutes- until soft. You can salt/pepper as you go along- can't say exactly how much total- we are now "grinding" everything- so doesn't lend itself to measurement- more just a taste thing. With us it is light on the salt and heavy on the pepper.

Well, about here you stir- occasionally which gives you some breathing space so...

"I always cook with wine- sometimes I even put it in the food."

Now I must digress- I decided that we (that means I decided and Don gets to help) would do homemade seafood/vegetable broth- so I bought shrimp with the shells intact and removed the shells to use in making the broth- and with the shells I added water (4 cups) and all the wilted vegetables in our frig- carrots, onion, garlic, parsley, celery, salt/pepper and probably more- whatever- and let it simmer for a couple of hours- I used half (2 cups) in this chowder- and froze the other 2 cups in the freezer for future use. But you can just use chicken or vegetable broth if you're so inclined.
Strain the broth...

And discard the vegetables and shells etc. And save.

If you like thick chowder (I don't so I skipped this step), add 2 tablespoons of flour to the vegetables- do this before you add any liquid- or you'll get major lumps (since I was the queen of lumpy gravy I did learn to cheat- you can blenderize your flour with the liquid and then add together and the lumps won't develop).

Now you add the broth to the chowder pot. Simmer the pot for 10-15 minutes.

Oops! I forgot the thyme. Well, if I just added it to the pot with the liquid it would be stiff- so we fixed that by softening in a tablespoon of butter... (my mistake but Don gets to help clean up my mess)-

And then added the thyme and butter to the pot. I just love recipes that are so forgiving my oversights.
Mark Bittman helpfully tells us that we can stop at this point and store for 2 days if you have a time crutch the day you plan to serve.

Add 2 cups of 1/2 and 1/2 (can use more cream- or use milk instead- but since I always have 1/2 and 1/2 on hand I just always use what I have- and what I can use the next morning in my coffee if I have some left over)...

Now the final preparation begins. (Amber and other vegitarians can skip the rest of this too including the part at the end where you eat it) Cut the fish- I used cod- but you can use any white fish that is sturdy (not tilapia- it will melt into nothing but tiny flakes in the pot)...

And now we add the corn- and the seafood...and the bacon...

Don with his "bleeding heart liberal bent" gives voice to the poor muscles and clams dying in this cauldron. Actually, I have always claimed that putting these living muscles and clams into boiling water is kind of like the cannibals boiling the missionaries. I know that they must be screaming in pain and so Max "forced" me to scream for them. Consequently, the picture.

And then it just all simmers...

While we rest. And have yet another glass of wine. And Michael and Liz wait patiently for dinner. Napping. Reading.

And then it is time for dinner...

Until time for the clean up!

Max never seems to mention that in addition to the chopping specialist, I also seem to be the clean up specialist. If Max were left to her cooking in isolation, the kitchen would soon be piled high with dirty bowls, dishes, knives, pots and pans. I take no credit for the creation, only for keeping the kitchen in some sort of order so the creation can take place.


Karen said...

Oh, Maxanna, your photos belong in a magazine! Nothing I have ever cooked in my LIFE was/ is / or ever will be worthy of having its picture taken!

What a wonderful, interesting, and exciting time you are having, and working full time to boot! You're a champ!

fiddleheads said...

i totally agree with the previous comment.
YOU need to do a "my time in san francisco cookbook"
i love your prep pics and dialog.

i have a request...matthew has mentioned a famous don granola recipe. any chance of seeing a granola posting any time soon? i am planning on adventuring into the granola making zone soon. any suggestions would be helpful ;)

Lucas said...

The Captain cooks, I clean. It works out great. Unless I "forget" to clean. Then it's like you said, a big mess piled high with dishes and such.

The Chowder looks great but I think it's pronounced Chowaduh! ;)