Monday, November 15, 2010

Salmon Chowder

I'm no vegetarian, but if a creature is killed to be our dinner, we should treat it with respect and use as much of it as we can.  When I lived in America, I never bought a fish with the skeleton included, but now I buy fresh fish at the market where I decide what to do with it.  If I ask my fish monger to fillet it, I usually receive the head and skeleton in the bag.  I was quite surprised the first time this happened, but of course, I had to find a way to use it!

OVERVIEW: The first time I made this I had a chunk of salmon skeleton and two full small tilapia skeletons.  I boiled all the raw remains with chunks of potatoes.  When the fish looked well cooked I fished it out (excused the pun) and threw in other vegetables and herbs.  I may have also added fresh or a can of stewed tomatoes.  I blended the soup, then picked the cooked skeletons clean and put the meat back in the soup.

DETAILS: This time I was inspired by some inexpensive fish heads at the market.  The young man there said I might prefer some salmon heads he had in the back, so I bought two.  (He offered to remove the jaw so I wouldn't hurt myself when handling them, but I though that would ruin the picture.)  I boiled them with a bay leaf for 15 minutes.  Then I drained the soup into a smaller pot and put the heads in the fridge to be picked apart later.

After rinsing my big pot I started boiling potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnip, celery, and 2-3 bay leaves.  I lowered the water to a simmer and when the potatoes were getting close to cooked I added half a bunch of dill and a little leftover parsley.

When the potatoes were cooked I fished out as much of the herbs and celery greens as I could find, plus the bay leaves.  Then I added a drained can of tomatoes, the fish broth, a little salt, pepper, and a "fish and chicken seasoning" spice mix.  Thanks to the hand blender my Mother-in-Law bought me, I blended everything left in the pot.

After I took steps to safely cool the soup (see end of bean soup video), I picked all the meat off the fish heads and added it back to the soup.

I was surprised that much of the meat inside the salmon head is white.  I don't really know my way around a salmon head, but I decided to keep anything that had a consistency between chicken and lobster and toss anything more slimy than that.

I added the meat back into the soup while figuring out what I was going to do with all that soup.  It was a lot!  It would probably freeze well, but I gave a container to my neighbors, I brought a container to my co-conspirator, Hannah, and her six kids, and I kept a big bowl for my husband and I.

Some things I suggest for next time:
  • I think you can cook the veggies right in the fish broth.  Then you won't have a lot of extra liquid, and you can add the tomatoes with their juice earlier on.
  • Use only the tops of the celery and stems of the dill.  There are more noble uses for the rest.
  • Up the flavor with some mushrooms, but use less of the other greens, they were a tad over-powering.
  • Increase the flavor (but also the prep time) by frying onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms and adding them halfway through the potato cooking.
  • Leave something else in the soup chunky besides the salmon, like leeks or mushrooms.

Do you have any ideas for making this soup more tasty, economical or ecological?

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