According to the Internet, there are only two things you’re supposed to eat on Super Bowl Sunday: chili and hot wings.
But we’d like to add something else to that short list: a big, delicious, feeds-a-crowd, Northwest chowder.
After all, the Seattle Seahawks are representing the Northwest in the Super Bowl (again) this year, so out of solidarity we think something Northwest-y is in order. Not only that, they’re battling the New England Patriots, so it seems especially fitting to take a New England classic and give it a completely Northwest overhaul. Because, really, that’s what the Seahawks are going to do. (Go Hawks!)
This chowder is built on wild Pacific salmon, of course, and flavored with Oregon-grown leeks. I skipped the bacon and used Northwest smoked trout instead. It adds another layer of seafood flavor and texture, while adding that beguiling touch of smoke.
For the base I used one of my favorite shortcuts: concentrated seafood stock. Concentrated stocks, which usually come in little tubes or plastic cups, are powerful ingredients. They’ve been simmered until just an intensely flavorful goo remains. This means you have control over how much you dilute that flavor with water. Basically, they’re like bouillon cubes but saucy, not as salty, and definitely more complex in flavor. My go-to brand is More Than Gourmet, especially for seafood or veal stock, but Savory Choice, Swanson’s, Trader Joe’s and Knorr make versions as well.
I always use a higher ratio of concentrate to water than the package suggests, which makes this chowder base super flavorful. And it doesn’t take more than a splash of cream to add rich silkiness. There’s no flour to gum things up, and no milk or half-and-half, which can break and look curdled.
My other secret ingredient: Portland-made Thai and True red curry paste. Your chowder won’t taste like Thai food (I promise!) but the paste, made with garlic, chiles, and spices, adds a touch of heat and complexity, no chopping required.
So on Sunday February 1, as East and West battle it out for the Super Bowl, we already know who won us over in the chowder bowl. It’s Northwest salmon and smoked trout, by a landslide.
Northwest Salmon and Smoked Trout Chowder
Makes 6 servings
This chowder is incredibly easy and fast to make. And it’s simple to scale the recipe down for a weeknight dinner, or scale it up to serve an even larger crowd. To add a balancing note of acidity, I add a splash of amontillado sherry. It’s easy to find at the supermarket, inexpensive, and offers a delicious, almost salty nuttiness. But, you can use white wine if you must.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 large leeks, white and light green parts sliced
½ cup amontillado sherry
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
6 cups water
3 (1.5-ounce) packages More Than Gourmet concentrated seafood stock (available at New Seasons)
2 teaspoons Thai and True red curry paste (available at New Seasons and Whole Foods)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup cream
8 ounces smoked trout, skin removed, flaked into bite-size pieces
12 ounces salmon fillets, skin removed, cut into ¾-inch chunks
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, optional
Set a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil, carrots and leeks. Saute, stirring occasionally, until leeks are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the sherry, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, then add the potatoes, water and seafood concentrate (be sure to get every bit out of the cup). Stir in the red curry paste and thyme, then season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Cover pot with a lid and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the cream, trout, salmon and corn, if using, making sure to submerge the salmon in the broth. Allow to simmer until salmon is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and red curry paste if desired. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.