~ Salmon Chowder with Cauliflower and Spinach ~
If I had to name one East Coast food I miss the most, it would be a good chowder. Chowder speaks New England to me. It speaks of summer with squeaky sandy beaches radiating heat and rainy days in a firelit pub, crowded fishing harbors with clanging boueys and circling seagulls, and the unmistakable smell of the ocean and seaweed suspended in fog. I moved away from New England 20 years ago, and still feel as though it’s in my bones – especially in the summer when I crave a clam or fish chowder. To satisfy this craving, I’ve learned to make my own. There is nothing more confirming that you are not-in-New-England-anymore, than when you order a “chowder” in different corners of the world that you call your new home. The results can be dismaying. So, long ago I decided to just figure it out myself.
The fish has varied upon location. In Boston, of course, littleneck clams are the star ingredient. In France, I improvised with tiny vongoles, in England I dabbled with smoked cod, and in Denmark I relied on plentiful salmon. And now, in the Bay area, my favorite remains salmon. The buttery richness of salmon permeates the broth, adding a pleasant and necessary dimension to the creamy soup. For extra smokiness, I might add a little smoked salmon, but simple salmon will do. I’ve been making chowder for so long now, it’s become a staple in our menu rotation and my kids have grown up eating it, wherever we’ve lived.
Salmon Chowder with Cauliflower and Spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups water
2 medium yukon potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower florets
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound salmon filet, pin-bones removed, raw or pre-cooked
1 bunch fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes. Add water and whisk to blend the flour. Add the potatoes and cauliflower. Simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in paprika, Tabasco, milk and cream. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Add salmon and simmer until fish is cooked through if using raw salmon, or heated through if salmon is pre-cooked. Stir in spinach and briefly cook until bright green in color and wilted, 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and serve immediately.