While most of the country suffers through a heat wave, San Francisco is enjoying a typical Bay area summer, blanketed in misty fog which keeps the temperatures chilly. The skies brighten by mid-day, but the air remains fresh with wind blowing in from the Pacific. I call this chowder weather, and turn to my favorite recipe. I like to make chowder with a variety of thick-fleshed fish, but always include a portion of smoked salmon to add an extra layer of warmth in flavor. In this recipe, smoky rich salmon swims in a creamy broth infused with the delicate whiff of anise from fennel. Its warm, salty, and smoky, transporting me to the seaside. All that’s missing are the cries of seagulls and the distant sound of clanging bouys.
Smoky Salmon and Fennel Chowder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed and reserved, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups water
1/2 pound russet or yukon potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds salmon filet, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound warm smoked salmon, flaked
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil and butter in a deep skillet or soup pot. Add onion, fennel and 1 teaspoon salt. Saute until the onion and fennel soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add water and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until potatoes are tender but not too soft, 15 minutes. Stir in salmon, cream and black pepper. Simmer until salmon is cooked through and chowder is hot, 8 to 10 minutes.
Taste for salt – depending on how salty the salmon is, you may need more. Serve hot, garnished with chopped fennel sprigs and extra pepper.