SALMON CORN CHOWDER
A used to cook at a restaurant where the owner allowed him to come alone at nights after the place had closed down and prepare all the soups. I was in graduate school at the time and would sometimes tag along, doing my homework in the empty restaurant while he listened to sports loudly on the radio and cooked for hours. Fortunately, the owner is A’s best friend’s mother and practically his second mother, so I don’t think she’d mind (though I don’t think we ever told her, oops). Anyway, she is also a fantastic cook and picked amazing recipes for the restaurant, so both A and I got to learn lots of great dishes that we replicate to this day. This chowder is one of them. The salmon is entirely optional, and actually, in the version photographed above, I used crab. Perhaps I should be calling this “Crab Corn Chowder” then? Unfortunately, it’s not fresh crab, but still pretty good. If you do decide to use canned crab, it’s already cooked, so just add it at the very end with enough time to heat up but not cook too much more. It’s up to you which you choose, but let me know how it goes!
1 pound red potatoes
1/2 pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
2 cups chopped scallions (from 2 bunches)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (3 cloves)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
3 cups whole milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 (1 1/2-pound) piece salmon fillet, skin discarded and fish cut into 1-inch pieces (salmon is optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes, then cook in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
2. Cook bacon in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
3. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot, then cook scallions, corn, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and red-pepper flakes in fat in pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until scallions are tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Add milk and cream and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to moderately low.
5. Add potatoes, salmon, bacon, salt, and pepper and cook, gently stirring occasionally, until salmon is just cooked through and begins to break up as you stir, 5 to 8 minutes.
6. Stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf before serving.
7. Garnish with chopped fresh chives