Spanish Style Seafood Chowder
Seafood Chowder - photo by Valerie Leduc Photography Being from the east coast I’ve had plenty of exposure to chowder. What other region than ours would have something called the chowder trail highlighting 60 chowders throughout the province that...
Being from the east coast I’ve had plenty of exposure to chowder. What other region than ours would have something called the chowder trail highlighting 60 chowders throughout the province that you wouldn’t want to leave Nova Scotia without having tried. There are so many different variations on this down home comforting staple, even one that uses a tomato base and not milk or cream but I’m not writing this from Manhattan, the namesake for said chowder so I’ll digress. It’s important to remember one thing: they all have potatoes and usually seafood. (If it doesn’t have seafood, it aught to be corn chowder and it better have bacon).
To anyone not well versed in the craft of producing or consuming this maritime staple it’s important to cover a few basic facts. Sometimes they’re thick, ( usually thickened by a roux or sometimes mashed potatoes to keep it gluten free) and sometimes they’re thin. What’s important is that whoever consumes it feels warmed by the quality of ingredients and the care that went into preparing it. I like to think of chowder as an extension of Nova Scotia hospitality without the Alexander Keiths or the invitation to some body’s cousin’s wedding even though they’ve just met you. Sometimes chowder is finished with a bit of dill, other times a bit of paprika. It’s generally best served with a fresh biscuit, however I like my version with baguette as I can dip the bread and absorb some of the liquid and not break any crumbs off creating a floating and absorbent island in the bowl destined to sink to the bottom and potentially become the final and potentially unappetizing bite at the end of an otherwise charming gastronomic experience.
So I guess you’re wondering how somebody who seems so proprietary and distinctly Nova Scotian with regards to this dish could completely upset the apple barrel by making a Spanish version. Well the fact is we are a world market these days, and things like saffron are available to those who search it out. The rest of the ingredients, thanks to the cultural diversity and amazing artisanal producers residing here in our back yard are readily available, yes even chorizo so get out there and look for it if that’s the twist you want to add to your version. The important thing for me was that people come to Rime and expect a memorable experience. And if any of our clients have been traveling the chowder trail they may only be able to remember if the chowder was thick or thin or served with a roll or heaven forbid a biscuit. Enter the Spanish version, by necessity and hopefully not to the chagrin off all of Nova Scotia, I know I may have rubbed my mother in law the wrong way with the biscuit comment.
Spanish Style Seafood Chowder
- 1/4 Lb cold-water shrimp, peeled and cooked
- 1/3 Lb haddock cut into 1 inch chunks
- 1/3 Lb salmon cut into 1 inch chunks
- About 15 rinsed mussels
- 3/4 cup tawny or port
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 L fish broth
- 1 cup medium diced potatoes
- 1/2 cup fine diced onion
- 1/2 cup fine diced carrot
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp chopped chives
- 2 slices of bacon diced
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
- 1 tsp saffron
- Warm a large pot - it should have a lid and be able to hold everything for the chowder
- Cook your bacon until it loses about half its’ mass and mostly meat remains. Pour most of the fat off, discard, but keep the fond from the bacon in the pot as well as the meat.
- Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and stir in onions, carrots, garlic and all spices except the saffron.
- Sweat the vegetables and spices stirring consistently until very aromatic and the onions are translucent. Use medium -high heat for this step, and remember not to rush.
- Once onions are translucent or in about 8 minutes of cooking, add in potatoes and stir until all the excess moisture in the pot is evaporated.
- Add the tawny or port then reduce mixture by half continuously stirring. Right away add fish stock and bring to a simmer. Once simmering add saffron.
- When potatoes are cooked but still al dente, it’s time to add the seafood. Mussels first. Once they begin to open, add the rest of the seafood.
- Turn off the heat and place a lid on your chowder. After 5 minutes with no heat, the fish should be fully cooked. Turn the heat back to medium and simmer one more time. If the fish releases more juice than your liking, reduce it until your desired consistency.
- Before serving, add the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle with olive oil, chives and serve.
Tips and tricks:
- This chowder has a Spanish twist because of cayenne and saffron.
- If you don’t make your own fish broth, use a low sodium concentrate.
- A lot of the flavour comes from cooking everything in one pot.
- You can spice it up by using chorizo sausage instead of bacon.
- Remember not to hurry, this recipe should take about 45 minutes to prep and 1 hour to cook.