Saturday, September 20, 2008

Seafood Chowder

This may seem to be a fairly simple menu item, but no matter how you make your chowder and whatever you put into it (clams, prawns (shrimp), crab, fish chunks, mussels, etc) there are a couple of very important techniques to getting it right.

For those of you in the US who make your own New England Clam Chowder, you'll feel right at home with this.

There are also many many different ingredients you can use. I'm going to give you the recipe as I made it two nights ago, and then give you a bunch of different things you can use/substitute. That way no matter where in the world you are and no matter what local ingredients you can lay your hands on, you'll always be able to make Dingo Dave's Seafood Chowder!

Oh, I tend to make it slightly different each time, depending on what I have in the pantry and the freezer that day or what was fresh at the fish shop that morning. So there's no real hard and fast rule, except for a couple of techniques.

On with the show!

Dingo Dave's Seafood Chowder

What you need:
2 or 3 rashers of bacon cut into small pieces
bacon fat from the above bacon (this is IMPORTANT)
1 can (400 mls or about 14 oz) coconut cream
200 gms small whole prawns (1/2 pound small shrimp) with the shells on
1 litre seafood stock (made from the above prawn shells)
1 whitefish fillet cut into small chunks (I used hoki)
small can of crab meat (or fresh if you've got it)
1/2 to 1 litre milk (2 to 4 cups)
a small minced (or diced) onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
3 or 4 small diced potatoes
sea salt
ground black pepper
ground white pepper
1 tbsp dried basil
1/4 cup flour
a couple of litres of H-TWO-OH(water)

What you due:

Firstly, make the seafood stock (start this a few hours before you want to make the chowder). To make it you'll need to peel and devein the prawns. Toss the veins (alimentary tract, ahem...) but keep the heads, shells, legs etc and throw them in a big ole saucepan. Add a litre (4 cups) of water and boil the heck out of it. Once it's almost boiled down, add another litre of water and boil for a short time. Let cool. Take a potato masher and mash down the shells --this is to extract every bit of flavourful prawny goodness from the shells. Strain the stock (this is IMPORTANT). Save the stock, dump the shells.

Ok, your seafood stock is made, no worries.

Now for the nuts and bolts.

Cook the bacon pieces in the pot you plan to make the chowder in (use a low flame). Once the bacon is done to your liking (crispy or not, your call), remove the bacon but LEAVE THE BACON FAT IN THE POT. Add the diced potatoes to the pot, and cook in the bacon fat for a few mins; stir regularly. After a couple of mins, add the minced onion, some salt, some ground black (or white) pepper and a bit of dried basil. Stir it around. You should have some very nice aromas by now; just keep the heat low so nothing burns. Add the flour and mix well.

Yes, you'll have some browned on gunky looking stuff in the pot along with the spuds and onions. Don't worry, you're about to take care of that.

Now add the seafood stock you made earlier in the day. Give everything a good stir and use your wooden spoon to scrap the bottom and sides of the pot. Ain't deglazing pots great? Very flavourful. Oh, and, ummmmm, it's a FRENCH cooking technique!

Now add the coconut cream and about 1/2 litre of milk (2 cups). Let it simmer for a few mins.

While that's simmering, you get to sear the spices and seafood.

I use a wok, but feel free to use a saucepan if you'd like.

To the wok add the olive oil, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, fish chunks, crab meat, prawn (shrimp) meat. Crank the heat to HIGH and sear that stuff while tossing/stirring regularly. It'll only take 2 to 3 mins.

Dump the entire contents of the wok into the chowder pot. Also add the bacon pieces. This is the point where you can add more milk if you think the chowder is too thick. I, however, feel that chowder can never be too thick --but that's just me.

Let it simmer for a couple of mins, then serve it up! Have a fresh made loaf of bread or a fresh cobb or a fresh baguette around for dunkers.

This is seriously good!

And now for the substitutions and garnishes!

Well, most of you may not want to make your own fish stock. I can respect that, really! So get a bottle of clam juice instead. Oi! Can't find clam juice, use white wine! Don't drink? Don't worry, the alcohol will cook off.

Fake crab can be subbed for crab meat, no worries.

If you sub clams for the prawns, then DON'T sear them and only add them to the chowder in the last couple of minutes --otherwise they'll be really tough and chewy.

Don't like coconut (heathen scum)? No worries, just use milk cream instead.

Allergic to lactose? Well... this really isn't the recipe for you, sorry.

Garnish with any herbs you want, just make sure they are fresh; chives, basil, parsley, coriander (cilantro if you are in N.A.) etc.

Want it spicy? Add a tbsp or two of vindaloo paste to the wok when you sear the seafood and spices. Oh YEAH! That'll get them capillaries dilated!


Arvay said...

Coconut in chowder? Whoda thunk? I am going to have to try this.

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

You can do a lot with coconut cream and coconut milk. I use it in most of my curries now too.

Arvay said...

I love southeast Asian curries with their coconut milk-based sauces. Were you amazed that in Fairbanks, there's such great Thai food?

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

There were 3 Thai places in Squarebanks when I was there (well, they didn't open till the late 80's) and (if memory serves me right) only one of them served authentic Thai food. And you had to know the cook to get the real stuff :)

Apparantly there's more Thai places open now in good ole FAI. Very Cool!

Lately I've been going with Malay type curries and turning down the heat (not for myself, but for the rest of the clan). Also have Indian curries down pretty darned good. However, I've just started experimenting with kaffir lime leaves --definitely Thai.

One of the keys is searing the spices in a wok (chinese cooking technique) before adding the coconut cream. Another is getting the amounts and combinations of spices juuuuuust right.

OT: just planted 9 tomato plants so this summer I should get well over 400 tomatoes! :)

BTW: I liked your tripod carrot.