|Smoked salmon chowder with salmon bacon. © Ryan Schierling|
Granted, this is bovine country and the nearest salmon, be it Pacific or (heaven forbid) Atlantic, is an ocean away. Wherever you hail from, there’s always something sacred about cooking with smoke. Brisket is the gold standard by which barbecue joints are judged in the Great Republic, and if you've got a line out the door for beef, then pork ribs and chicken are pretty much a gimme.
Geographically, barbecue in this part of the country has never had a reason to be about the fish. Southern barbecue is beef and pig and yard bird. About the only ocean-sourced thing you’re likely to see on the grates of a Texas smoker are gulf oysters.
Salmon has a little less real estate to work with than most things that end up in the smoke. If someone could engineer and farm a salmon the size of a cow, you'd have cheap sides of salmon cluttering up everyone's offset, and apple trees would be shaking in their boots, err... at their roots. But salmon are not the size of cows and they're a little harder to catch than cows, pigs and chickens, so their most delicious parts are at a premium.
This is a really easy, comforting and luxurious recipe that was born of haste, no waste, and a definitive Pacific Northwest taste. The small amount of smoked salmon required amplifies in flavor as part of the soup and won’t break the bank. It’s inspired by our love for hot-smoked or kippered salmon, and Seattle's varied versions of San Francisco cioppino. It's also a bit of a nod to a smoked-fish Scottish soup called Cullen skink – which translates, basically, to a town name (Cullen) and some meat off the shin or knuckle bone (skink). Now, I never seen no fish shin... I ain't never seen no... no fish knuckle bone. This is turning into a blues song. I digress.
If you're smoking your own fish for this recipe, you can use just about any salmon parts you like – bellies, collars, cheeks, tail, scraps – because it will end up crumbled into the soup. You can also use hot-smoked salmon pre-packaged from your grocer. I have done both and the results are very similar.
Finally, it also incorporates something that I've been wanting to do for a while – salmon bacon. Thin slices of lox are crisped, brushed with maple syrup and finished with salt and black pepper. The result was so perfect that we'll definitely be incorporating this into SBLT sandwiches this summer.
Smoked salmon chowder
8 ounces hot-smoked (kippered) salmon
1 large sweet onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
6 celery ribs, diced
4 white potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup vegetable stock
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
2 lemons, juiced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt, to taste
In a medium stockpot over medium heat, add olive oil and butter. Sauté onion, carrot and celery until soft, about 10 minutes. Add vegetable stock, milk and potatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are just tender. Add crumbled salmon, paprika, dill, lemon juice and salt to taste. Let simmer 30 minutes. Stir in cream and adjust seasoning to taste. Garnish with salmon bacon (recipe below), and/or serve with a good sourdough loaf.
|Salmon bacon. © Ryan Schierling|
4 ounces lox
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
salt and pepper
In a skillet over medium heat, bring oil up to temperature and add thin slices of lox. Cook until the color begins to change and the edges start to crisp, then flip gently with a fork and repeat on the other side. Brush each piece with maple syrup as it's cooking and flip again, brushing the other side with syrup until the pieces begin to caramelize and crisp. Remove to a plate and season with salt and black pepper. Crumble pieces of salmon bacon onto chowder as a garnish.