~ 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
We don’t usually have left-over salmon in our house, since it’s often gobbled up the moment it hits our dinner plates. In the rare occurrence when there is some filets left, I’ll make fish cakes or a chowder. While both of these recipes usually start with the premise of using raw fish, pre-cooked leftovers work just as well. Considering how expensive salmon can be, this is a great way to get 2 fabulous meals from one purchase. You just need to be lucky enough to have the leftovers.
1 pound salmon filet, pin-bones removed, raw or pre-cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 yukon gold potatoes cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 1/2 cups chopped cauliflower florets
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon Tabasco
4 cups water
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
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.