As a native New Englander, I have strong, one-dimensional opinions on what makes a chowder. I like chowder that is thick and creamy, with plenty of potatoes and clams/fish. However I’m not so provincial that I can’t look beyond my local borders to be inspired by other chowder traditions…so long as it’s creamy
For instance, I’ve always wanted to try cullen skink, a Scottish chowder made with smoked haddock. Here in Gloucester, we love haddock and have plenty of it, but I don’t know anyone who makes their haddock chowder with smoked fish. Why? It seems like a natural pairing.
I didn’t have any smoked haddock, but I did have a piece of hot-smoked Alaskan salmon in my freezer from Jerry’s Meats & Seafood in Juneau. Smoked salmon in a creamy chowder sounded like a match made in heaven, and a quick search online showed plenty of West-coast recipes for a wild smoked salmon chowder.
Out of all the different recipes I found, I was most intrigued by those like what they serve at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Not only does it use cream, but it has cream cheese in it too!
Cream cheese, capers, tomatoes? This is certainly new territory, but it sounded like it could be delicious if I could pull it off.
The Recipe: Creamy Smoked Salmon Chowder
- 8oz hot-smoked Wild Salmon, flaked
- 1lb Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled
- Aromatics: Shallot, Carrots, Celery chopped fine
- 1 can Diced Tomatoes (I used Chopped Tomatoes)
- 2Tbsp. Tomato Paste
- 3 cups Clam Broth or Fish Stock
- 4oz Neufchatel Cheese (or Cream Cheese)
- 1 cup Cream (I used light cream)
- 1/2 jar Capers and Brine
- Herbs/Spices: Bay leaf, Dried Dill, Fennel Seed, Dried Rosemary, Salt, Pepper, Fresh Parsley and Dill
- 2-3Tbsp. Butter
- Optional: Bacon or Salt Pork sliced small, chopped Garlic
Flake the salmon, remove any pin bones, skin and grey matter. Peel and cut the potatoes. Crush or grind fennel seeds and dried rosemary. Sweat the aromatics in butter, then add tomato paste and cook until it the paste takes on a richer aroma.
Add potatoes, broth, bay leaf, dried dill and tomatoes, stir and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender. Add the cream cheese, capers and brine, fresh herbs and gently simmer and stir until the cream cheese is blended into the chowder.
Turn heat to low before adding the cream. Finally add the smoked salmon and stir to incorporate. Once everything is hot, serve with crusty bread.
The Verdict: How Was The Smoked Salmon Chowder?
Wow, just wow. This was so incredibly good that I might have to order more smoked salmon. Silky, creamy, smoky decadence in every spoonful. I could taste every ingredient and they all complemented each other. The secret to the extra-deliciousness of this chowder in my opinion is the inclusion of the capers with brine and the ground fennel seeds/rosemary, if I didn’t make this myself I would be trying to figure out the ingredients.
I omitted the bacon/salt pork just in case my wife wanted some (she didn’t) but I honestly didn’t miss it at all. I added some crumbled bacon on top for my second serving and I felt that the chowder really didn’t need it. By the way, like all chowders this got even better the next day…just heat it slowly on the stovetop.
This chowder opened my eyes to all sorts of possibilities and I’m looking forward to making variations using different smoked fish. Have you ever made a chowder like this? Ever try the Pike Place Market version? Share in the comments section!