Chowder: A culinary explosion of comfort food, by Cynthia Ferris-Bennett

Creamy fish soup with salmon, potatoes, onions and carrots. Kalakeitto. Traditional dish of the Finnish cuisine

Creamy fish soup with salmon, potatoes, onions and carrots. Kalakeitto. Traditional dish of the Finnish cuisine

When chowder comes to mind most folks think of New England clam chowder or its tomato cousin, Manhattan clam chowder. As our Sierra Chef Chowder Class discovered this past weekend the chowder world is wide open! The traditional definition of chowder is a white sauce base that is a chunky, rich soup with seafood. The addition of corn and/or potatoes is also a common ingredient. While both have a creamy base, Bisques are not considered chowder as they are smooth while chowder is chunky.

While chowder was, in the past, considered to be a poor man’s food cooked in a cauldron, and as our class learned, the culinary explosion of this comfort food has produced such taste tempting chowders as Red Curry Thai with Fresh Herb Accent, Spicy Buffalo Chicken topped with Blue Cheese Cream Puffs, and one of my personal favorites, Salmon Dill Chowder served in a toasted Ciabatta Bowl.

While most chowders are not served with rolls or biscuits, but with crackers sprinkled on top, I find that serving the Salmon Dill Chowder in the toasted ciabatta roll (rubbed with a fresh garlic clove) is a lovely presentation and let’s face it, eating that ciabatta after the chowder is gone is wonderful! As always...Mangia!

Salmon Dill Chowder INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

10 scallions, chopped – include some of the green, reserve some for topping 3 celery stalks, small dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, rough chop

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons flour

1⁄2 qt. whole milk

1⁄2 qt. heavy cream

1 cup water

1 pound red potatoes, leave skin on and small dice 3/4-pound skinless salmon filet cut into 1⁄2-inch chunks 2 cups frozen corn

4 teaspoons fresh dill, rough chop

4 teaspoons fresh chives, rough chop

Spray oil

1 fresh garlic clove

8 ciabatta rolls


1. Preheat oven to low broil. Remove the upper third of the ciabatta roll, scoop out the center and do not puncture the bottom of the roll. Spray the top and inside of the rolls with oil, place on a baking sheet and place in oven on low broil until the roll begins to brown. Remove the baking sheet; rub the cut portion of each roll with the fresh garlic clove. Set aside.

2. Heat the EVOO in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the scallions, celery, garlic, thyme, red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery begins to soften, 5 minutes. Sprinkle the mixture with the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

3. Stir in the milk, cream and water. Add the potatoes and vigorously simmer until they are just tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

4. Add the salmon and corn, return to a simmer and cook until the salmon is opaque throughout, about 5 minutes more.

5. Remove from stove top, ladle into to toasted Ciabatta rolls, top with fresh dill, chives and scallions, Mangia!

Cynthia Ferris-Bennett is owner of Sierra Chef.


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