Our love of smoked salmon knows no boundaries: We pile it onto toast for breakfast, flake it into mayonnaise for a sandwich and enjoy it for dinner with a side of asparagus and potatoes.
In cooler weather, we often simmer smoked salmon oh so briefly in a milky broth with leeks and potatoes for a warm, comforting supper. With spring on the horizon, a touch of fresh dill and a scoop of tender green peas help this chowder transition the seasons.
We regularly mail-order tinned ocean-caught sockeye salmon, smoked over Alaskan alder wood, from Captain Jim’s www.captainjimssalmon.com. This delicious, smoky, firm fish flakes nicely and brings back memories of our Alaskan trip during the height of salmon season.
Softer, hot-smoked salmon, such as the sustainably raised Atlantic salmon from the Honey Smoked Fish Company out of Denver, lends a lovely hickory flavor to the chowder. Look for packaged filets in the refrigerator section of large supermarkets. Note, that chowder is not the place for nova lox or thin sliced Scottish smoked salmon; save these for eating on open-face sandwiches.
Of course, fresh salmon, cooked on a smoky grill, or under the heat of a broiler, works well here too. When using fresh salmon, add a couple of pinches of smoked paprika to the chowder.
To keep things from getting too fishy, use a combination of chicken broth and seafood broth (or bottled clam juice). Low-sodium broths are a good idea as smoked salmon can lend a salty flavor to the soup.
Serve the chowder in warmed bowls. Pass a vinegary hot red pepper sauce—the vinegar cuts the richness and perks up the vegetables. Crusty garlic bread or thick slices of sourdough bread will help soak up every drop.
Smoked Salmon and Veggie Chowder
Makes 6 servings
Note: Make this extra smoky by using bacon drippings for the vegetable sautéing.
- 2 small leeks, halved lengthwise, well rinsed or 1 medium-size onion
- 3 medium-sized red potatoes, 12 ounces, scrubbed and diced
- 4 thin carrots, trimmed, peeled
- 1 small yellow or golden bell pepper, cored, seeded
- 2 tablespoons butter or bacon drippings
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups seafood broth or clam broth
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or crème fraiche or a combination
- Salt, freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas or baby lima beans
- 8 to 12 ounces smoked salmon, skin removed, checked for bones
- 1 or 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
- Red pepper hot sauce, for serving
1. Use a very sharp knife to slice leeks crosswise into -1/4-inch-wide pieces. Slice only the white and pale green portions (reserve the dark green portion for another use). If using onion, cut into a small dice. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch dice. Slice carrots into 1/4-inch thick coins. Cut bell pepper into small dice.
2. Melt butter in a large saucepan or medium-size Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks or onion; cook and stir until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in potatoes, carrots, bell pepper, celery and garlic; cook 3 minutes.
3. Stir in broths. Heat to a simmer; reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are fork-tender, about 15 minutes. (This base can be made several days in advance and refrigerated.)
4. Shortly before serving, heat soup base to simmer. Stir in dissolved arrowroot and heat to a boil while stirring continuously. Mixture should thicken slightly. Stir cream into soup base and season with salt and pepper Add peas and cook 1 minute. Break smoked salmon into large attractive bite-sized flakes. Add salmon to soup and heat through.
5. Serve garnished with fresh dill. Pass the hot sauce.
Makes 4 servings
- 1 pound center cut fresh or thawed salmon fillet
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse (kosher) salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. Position broiler rack so salmon will be 6 inches from heat source. Heat broiler.
2. Place salmon on a broiler pan or on a baking sheet. Coat all sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Position salmon so it is skin side down.
3. Broil, 6 inches from heat source, rotating pan once or twice, until fish nearly flakes easily at the thickest portion, about 8 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers for a couple of days.