Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fish Chowder with 5 onions and a scallop

We initiated the holiday by sharing some fish chowder and home made bread with a good friend. The warm flickering of candles and flame from the fire made the food taste better! Who needs holiday decorations when you have candles, food, friends! In tribute to Martha - I did pull out the bag of cranberries that I never used for Thanksgiving and floated them in a glass vase of water and thought about adding the remains of my fruit bowl, persimmons, kumdwats and limes. But I was out of time so I didn't.

Potato and 5 onion fish chowder with scallop 
The special treat of this basic everyday chowder was the seared giant sea scallop served with the chowder around it and sprinkled with truffle salt and herb garnishes.
Cod - nearly a couple pounds added after the potato onion chowder base was hot and thick and ready.
Potatoes - I used a couple pounds of yellow finn. I boiled 6 medium-large potatoes, but I used a couple for the bread. They thicken the chowder nicely so that no thickening agent is necessary.
Bacon - I start my bacon in the microwave to get some of the greese out and prevent over greecification of my kitchen. Then I chopped it and browned it in the large soup pot, but rinsed the pot of any blackening before cooking the onions. I used the bacon flavored fat rendered in the microwave for cooking to avoid a harsh flavor.
Onions - Leeks, Yellow onions, shallots, scallions, chives, all sauteed in a drizzle of bacon greese and a dab of butter and S&P.
Herbs and spices: Tarragon, thyme, cayenne, salt &pepper, truffle salt, 7 leaves of fresh tarragon and a couple pinches of fresh mild thyme from my garden. Salt and pepper. Cayenne and truffle salt at the end.
Broth: clam broth and fish broth (one can of clam broth and 2 cups of water from poaching a fish I had in the freezer. I didn't use the fish in the chowder as the texture wasn't great. I may add it to the left overs, otherwise - cat food)
Milk - At least a quart, maybe two? I had 1% milk, so I added a can of condensed milk, then later a 1/4 cup of cream.
Giant Scallops - one per person, seared and browned at the end in a pan of hot butter, placed in the chowder and sprinkled with truffle salt. Adding the cayenne dash and extra tarragon leaves (chives too) just before serving.

The Bread - Inspired by Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe for potato buttermilk bread in her "Bread Bible", but I didn't follow her recipe but improvised according to the time slots I had available.It was a potato theme. Using some of the potato water to make a sponge, I left it out for nearly a day, made it sour. The potato water excellerates the souring. I mixed the powdered buttermilk I had with potato water and added it to the sponge, with yeast and white whole wheat flour and sugar, and buttermilk, as well as some nearly mashed potatoes. The dough was silky soft like any good potato/buttermilk dough should be, though more sour than sweet. I punched the dough down a few times before I had time to form the loaves, raise one final time, and bake. I added chopped red onion just before forming the loaves. We liked it spread with butter for the first taste, but then ate it unbuttered and dipped in the chowder.

The Green Salad - a leafy green salad from baby live growing lettuce of red  and green leaf, butter lettuce and and some dashes of sherry vinegar, olive oil, s&p, topped with delicate enoki mushrooms and mandarin orange slices. 

Vegetarian potato onion chowder variation - the onion potato milk combination was really good before adding the fish, but I goofed by using bacon at this point which didn't meet my vegetarian daughter's needs. She ate the bread with slices of aged cheddar cheese and apricot jam. She also had mashed potatoes with vegetarian gravy I made her, and boiled edemame beans and salad.

No good vegan options.

Monday, December 14, 2009

who woulda thunk

Shelf purchased cream of tomato soup by Pacific resulted in a bland soup. Many options to spice it up. I wanted more acidity and more sweetness so I put a few drops of balsamic vinegar and it was just right! One time I added  pasta shells with gorgonazola from the previous nights dinner and that was good. Do you have a favorite addition to tomato soup? Please do tell!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jerusalem Artichoke Scallop Christmas Soup

Do you have a favorite Christmas seafood tradition? We are not wired to putting down roots. Traditions escape us. We forget. Move on. We live in the vein of inventing the next tradition. Then we forget again. Like when we tried to institute a Sunday Advent celebration with our kids, inspired by our German and Norweign au pairs. Cookies and candles appearing according to the number of the Sundays. It lasted 2 years. Stepping back I can say that more likely than not, we will have some kind of fish soup. For a couple of years, it was oyster chowder. Easy - fresh picked Puget Sound oysters and whole milk with a few chives, basically. Otherwise, crab bisque, or just cracked crab with creamy tomato-red pepper soup. Mussels are so flavorful, I recall a couple years ago in December in Paris, tasting a mussel soup that had unbelievable flavor. The dusting of snow on Paris streets and the steamy windows inside the warm cafe was their secret ingredient. The ultimate of seafood soups, a Mediterranean seafood stew, fish stock flavored with orange, saffron, garlic, etc. and a variety of fish, is the most colorful and satisfying of seafood soups. I am deciding whether or not to create this for a holiday celebration this year.
One year I made this delicious scallop artichoke creamy soup. Very unusual and beautiful looking. I made enough for gifts to family members which meant lots of artichoke peeling! I was pleased to get a supply from a friend who grew them. It helps to have large tubers, or it takes forever to peel the little nobs.

Fish stock, saffron, lemon zest, milk and cream make the base.
Jerusalem artichokes, onion, scallops, sauteed in butter
chopped chives, sliced almonds, chervil or parsley to garnish
I loosely followed the recipe By Anne Sheasby in "The New Soup Bible"
Mine was chunkier. In the puree, I put no scallops and only used half of the jerusalem artichokes. With a good fish broth, I didn't think the scallops needed to be in the puree. The remaining artichokes were diced into the soup. If using large scallops, one could sear them and add to the soup with the garnish.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

About Brazilian Food (and not eating snake) in China

Do you know Brazilian cuisine? Amy Duncan, facebook friend and musician livng in Rio de Janiero, talked with me about cod fish balls in Brazil. I related to her my only knowledge of Brazilian food from a trip to China. I was in central China, Changsha, the town where Mao Zedong came of age. We saw no Westerners in our hotel and rarely around town, and ate no western food. The Chinese food was delicious. Heavily reliant on meat, but hugely flavorful. Our Chinese hosts took us to a different Chinese restaurant featuring some regional cuisine once a day,although this day it was Brazilian. I t was bizare to discover this hang-out of Western folks with the range of hair colors, blonde, brunette, etc. That's where all the visitors or x-pats came to eat. This restaurant style was new to us, yet our Chinese host thought they had brought us home. (yah, overcooked spaghetti and wonder bread? Give me Chinese noodles please). It was an experience. Waiters wandered around the restaurant with big skewers of grilled meat and we served ourselves at a buffet with things like spaghetti and sliced white bread next to tropical fruit salads and other unknown dishes. The restaurants are called Churrascarias. You order your meats from the table, then visit the buffet for the side dishes. Perhaps we shall have to travel to Brazil to try the authentic thing.
There was one specialty Chinese restaurnat on our hosts list that we missed. Our family ended our stay in Changsha one day early in order to experience the train to Shanghai, (and train food). We missed the most unusual specialty. The Chinese hosts took our colleague who stayed behind, to the local snake restaurant. He said that the variety of dishes tasted good if you can get over the idea that you are eating snake. Hard to do when the pots are filled with snake shaped pieces of meat. We had seen snake at the local market. The snake sellers had fun teasing us with the snakes in their hand.