Eric Akis: Add B.C. seafood to sublime chowder

Eric Akis

If you enjoy corn chowder stocked with potatoes, the best time to make it is right now, when fabulous locally grown corn and potatoes are available.

If you want the chowder to be even more sublime, simmer in a mixture of B.C. seafood.

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That’s what I did in today’s recipe. Corn kernels, cut fresh off the cob, and cubes of nugget potatoes are simmered in a thickened stock mixture flavoured with onion, celery, carrot and garlic.

The B.C. seafood that joined that party in the pot included small cooked pink shrimp that were coarsely chopped, flakes of wild smoked salmon and cubes of fresh fish. The latter could be Pacific snapper (rockfish) or ling or grey cod fillets, depending on your preference.

When the potatoes are cooked and tender, mixing in some cream or milk and a nice amount of chopped fresh dill makes the chowder even richer. When those ingredients are heated through, it’s ready to enjoy.

The recipe yields eight servings. If that’s too many, the leftovers could be frozen to thaw and enjoy the next time you feel like a bowl of chowder.

The recipe calls for hot smoked salmon, which is brined like cold smoked salmon, but is smoked at a higher temperature. That gives it a firmer texture and makes it great for breaking up into spoon-sized flakes.

That type of smoked salmon and the snapper or cod are sold at most supermarkets and seafood stores, where you can likely also find the shrimp.

A reader, Leanne, recently sent me a note asking where she could buy oyster crackers, a tiny cracker often served with chowder in places such as the U.S. East Coast.

They are not widely available here, so I thought I would also provide a recipe for them. They are not that difficult to make and taste great scooped up from a bowl of chowder.

Summer Corn, Potato and Seafood Chowder

Three types of B.C. seafood, local corn and potatoes star in this hearty chowder. If desired, top bowls of it with homemade oyster crackers (see recipe below).

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: about 35 minutes

Makes: eight (about 1 1/4 cup) servings

1 large cob of corn, shucked

1/4 cup butter

1 medium onion, finely diced (cut into 1/4-inch cubes)

2 medium celery ribs, finely diced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup grated carrot (about 1 small carrot)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

5 cups chicken or fish stock or broth (divided)

8 to 10 small nugget potatoes, or other miniature potato, washed well and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

125 grams skinless hot smoked salmon, flaked into small pieces

1 (250 gram) B.C. snapper (rockfish) or ling or grey cod fillet, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, any bones removed

150 grams small cooked shrimp, coarsely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup half and half (10 per cent) cream or milk

2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

• salt and white pepper to taste

Use a sharp paring knife to cut the corn kernels off the cob, then set them in a bowl. Melt the butter in a medium to large pot and set over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic, and cook until tender, about five to six minutes. Mix in the flour and cook and stir two minutes more.

Slowly stir one cup of the stock (or broth). When mixture becomes very thick, mix in the rest of the stock (or broth). Bring soup to a gentle simmer.

Add the corn kernels, potatoes, smoked salmon, snapper (or cod), shrimp and bay leaf. Return soup to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface), adjusting the heat as needed to maintain that simmer.

Cook chowder, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, for about 15 minutes.

Stir in the cream (or milk) and dill, and heat them through a few minutes. Season the chowder with salt and pepper and it’s ready to enjoy.

Oyster Crackers

Here’s a homemade version of the tiny cracker often served with oyster stew, hence their name: They also go great with chowder.

Preparation time: 30 to 40 minutes, plus dough resting time

Cooking time: 15 to 17 minutes, plus oven drying time

Makes: about 1 3/4 cups (enough for eight bowls of chowder)

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus some for rolling and cutting

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

• pinch ground cayenne pepper

1/8 cup (2 Tbsp) cold butter, cut into tiny cubes

1/3 cup cold water

Place the 1 cup flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter and — using your fingers, two forks or a pastry cutter — work it into the flour mixture until thoroughly distributed and a little crumbly.

Add the water to the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to roughly combine the two. Knead any remaining dry flour mixture into the dough.

Lightly flour a work surface and set the dough on it. Cover dough by inverting the mixing bowl over it. Let dough rest for 15 minutes.

When dough has rested, place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet (mine was 18 x 13 inches) with parchment paper. Uncover dough and press into a thick disc. Now, use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Sprinkle a little flour on or under the dough during this process if it is sticking.

Use a floured-dipped, 3/4-inch round cutter to cut the dough into tiny rounds. If you don’t have a cutter that size, simply cut the dough into 3/4-inch squares or diamond shapes. Set the pieces of dough on the baking sheet, ensuring there’s a bit of space in between each one.

If you’ve cut the dough into rounds, gather up the leftover scraps of dough, and roll and cut them into crackers, too.

Bake the crackers in the middle of the oven until light golden on the bottom and around the edges, about 15 to 17 minutes. Turn the oven off, open the oven door about six inches, and let the crackers continue to dry and crisp up 30 minutes.

Remove crackers from the oven, set on a baking rack and cool to room temperature. Transfer crackers to a tight-sealing container and store at room temperature until ready to serve with the chowder.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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