and bay scallops stud a chowder made with leek, bacon,
potatoes, corn, carrot and spinach.
have go-to recipes — ones the cook enjoys making and the
guests order over and over again. At home, I turn to one-pot
soups, stews and slow-cooker meals for the same reasons.
to prepare a couple of fish soup bases to make dinner
parties easier. When the guests arrive, I can simply reheat
the base, add some fresh fish and serve with great bread and
a tossed salad.
recipes are inspired by my travels — my favorite way to
keep vacation memories alive. When winter feels gray and
cold, I recall the sunny beaches of Nice and the quaint fish
market just outside our rented apartment window. Soupe de
poisson nicoise, a hearty tomato, garlic and
saffron-flavored fish soup is on nearly every restaurant
menu. No wonder. It’s restorative and redolent with the
aromas of the sea. Crusty bread and a small crock of rouille,
a garlicky red-pepper condiment, accompany the bowl.
selecting fish for soup, look for mild-tasting, non-oily
fish, such as cod, tilapia and halibut. Always pay attention
to how the fish was sourced; a good fish market will be able
to tell you about its provenance. Shellfish makes great
soup, so I stock a bag or two of frozen raw shrimp in the
freezer for quick additions. Likewise, canned fish, such as
salmon or lump crab, can make a delicious chowder any day of
recipes instruct the cook to boil the fish with its bones
until the stock is flavorful and the fish falls into fine
shreds. Then there are straining, pureeing and more
simmering. I save time by using skinless fish fillets and
prepared seafood stock — either from the freezer case at
the local fish market or from the grocery store shelves.
Seafood stock from Kitchen Basics proves reliable, nicely
flavored and moderately salted.
soups start with sauteed vegetables to build flavor. For the
nicoise-style soup, fresh fennel, leek and crisp, white
onions are sauteed in good French olive oil. Then, canned
tomato puree and a bit of dry vermouth are added along with
the fish stock. Pinches of ground saffron, or more readily
available saffron threads, add a musty undertone typical of
the classic versions in France.
finish the soup, I make a fast blender-friendly version of
rouille. Some of the garlicky puree is used to season the
tomato base before the fish is added. The rest is served at
just might be one of the best food words ever. If you’ve
been lucky enough to have a bowl of a well-prepared version,
you can conjure the chowder memory just by saying the word.
My favorite is always creamy and studded with bacon. Sweet
corn doesn’t hurt. This version calls for fresh salmon and
bay scallops. I add some lump crab when I want to impress.
Sharp, tangy, Louisiana-style red-pepper hot sauce adds
creamy soup base is so good, you could skip the fish and
turn it into vegetable chowder simply by doubling the corn
and adding some roasted diced red and poblano peppers. For a
speedy weeknight chowder, I use canned salmon in place of
fresh fish. Better than anything sold at the soup bars at
the local grocery stores.
AND SAFFRON FISH SOUP A LA NICE
cup olive oil
small fennel bulb, about 4 ounces, ends trimmed, diced
small leek, halved, rinsed, chopped
large white onion, about 6 ounces, diced
small cloves garlic, finely chopped
(28 ounces) tomato puree
quart (32 ounces) seafood stock (or light chicken broth)
tablespoons vermouth or dry white wine, optional
pinch ground saffron or 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
teaspoon crushed espelette pepper or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
freshly ground black pepper
pounds line-caught wild cod fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.
Add fennel, leek and onion. Cook and stir on medium-low
until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook a
couple minutes. Do not brown the vegetables.
the tomato puree, seafood stock, vermouth, 1/4 cup water,
saffron and espelette pepper. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to
low, and simmer uncovered, stirring often, about 20 minutes.
Puree smooth with immersion blender or in a blender, working
carefully in small batches. (The base can be made several
days in advance; refrigerate covered.)
Reheat the base, and adjust with up to 1 cup water if the
soup is thicker than heavy cream. Stir in 1/2 cup of the
rouille. Season with salt (about 1 teaspoon) and a generous
1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the fish. Simmer until fish flakes
easily with a fork, about 10 minutes. Use a fork to break up
the fish. Season again with more salt and pepper as needed.
Serve with remaining rouille and toasted bread.
1 1/2 cups
3 or 4
slices 1/2-inch thick French baguette or 2 thick slices
cup olive oil
(12 ounces) roasted red bell peppers, drained, rinsed
teaspoon ground espelette pepper or 1 small serrano pepper,
stemmed, halved, seeded
ground saffron, optional
Soak the bread in 2 tablespoons very hot water and the oil
in a small bowl until softened.
Transfer to a blender; add remaining ingredients. Process
until a smooth puree.
information per serving: calories, g fat, g saturated fat,
mg cholesterol, g carbohydrates, g sugar, g protein, mg
sodium, g fiber
FISH CHOWDER WITH BACON, CORN AND SPINACH
can use 1 or 2 cans (14.75 ounces each) wild-caught Alaskan
red salmon and some canned crab here in place of the fresh
fish for a speedy soup. Pick through the canned salmon to
remove any bones or skin. I like a Louisiana-style hot
red-pepper sauce with this soup; Sriracha is too sweet.
small (3 ounces) leek, split lengthwise, rinsed
thick slices bacon, diced (about 2 ounces)
tablespoons olive oil
medium (6 ounces total) yellow-skin potatoes, diced
small white onion, diced
large carrot, peeled, diced
small serrano pepper, halved, seeded, minced
quart (32 ounces) seafood stock or chicken broth
frozen corn kernels
heavy (whipping) cream
freshly ground pepper
ounces salmon fillet, skinned, cut into ¾-inch pieces
pound bay scallops, rinsed
small bunch fresh spinach, stems trimmed, well rinsed,
roughly chopped, about 2 to 3 loosely packed cups
Remove most of the dark green section of the leek and save
for other use. Dice the white and light green portion.
leek, bacon, olive oil, potatoes, onion, carrot and serrano
into a large saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over
medium-low heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Do not
Stir in seafood stock or broth, and 1 cup water. Heat to a
boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring often,
20 minutes. (Base can be made several days in advance;
Reheat the base, and stir in corn and cream. Simmer over low
heat, 5 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4
teaspoon pepper. Stir in salmon and scallops. Simmer, 2
minutes. Stir in spinach. Simmer until salmon almost flakes,
about 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
Garnish with fresh chives. Serve right away with warm bread
or oyster crackers. Pass the hot sauce.