Tuesday, April 15, 2014

a recipe for fish chowder and other antidotes for april's cruelty

April, april, april. Can you ever really trust April? The first line of T.S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land" would answer, no, you can't. The other day I said that April can be iffy and that I wouldn't be surprised if winter were to have a last hurrah or two. Well, it certainly had one the other night.




I'd been depressed by the dreary, raininess of the couple days before, but when I opened the blinds to see this... Let's just say, I was not happy.

And yet, out in that mess that looked like January, there was a cardinal singing away, sounding happy as could be. I wanted to stay inside. Stay in my pajamas. Pretend that this late snow hadn't happened. But I started to be a little bit smitten by the beauty of it all. The four of us got dressed in our winter gear (hadn't expected to have to do that again for many months) and went for a walk.

The snowstorm surprised us all, I think.




The weather report had predicted "less than half an inch" of snow. It's hard to tell how much was on the ground. It was wet and heavy and in protected areas or areas where there were large puddles from the preceding rain there wasn't much snow. But even so, it was much, much more than "less than half an inch." Tricycles and motorcycles alike were covered. I saw a convertible with its top down filled with snow.

And then there was the magical path through the park.




I could not complain about the snow while walking through these trees.




I would challenge even the most adamant snow-hater to walk along this path and not be humbled by its beauty.






I was glad I had decided to get out of my pajamas and out into the day.

Of course, I found a snow heart on the other side.




If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I consoled myself that morning by baking a rhubarb coffee cake (recipe for that is here). Good food is always a perfect antidote for less than welcome weather. Whatever that less than welcome weather may be, yummy soup will do the trick.




For cold, dreary rain or inches of snow, how about fish chowder? Here's my recipe. I've made it twice, with little tweaks. Soup is good that way. Easy to experiment with. Easy to change around depending on what you have on hand. The first time I didn't have any peppers and it was just as yummy without them. Matthias declared this one of the best soups I've ever made. For someone who claims not to like fish, this is saying something. I'd love to try this with a mixture of seafood. Shrimp and crab would be nice additions. My guess is that this soup will be just as good if you just add the milk and cheese even without making a sauce. Or leave out the cheese altogether. You could thicken the soup by pureeing part of the soup once the potatoes are tender but before you add the fish. Play around with it and I'm sure your dreary day will look a bit brighter.

olive oil (and bacon fat, optional) to cover, thinly, bottom of soup pot (about 2 TB total)
1 medium onion, chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
5-6 small potatoes (about 4 cups) chopped with the skin on
1 cup broth (homemade, bouillon, whatever you have on hand -- I used a packet of Trader Joe's concentrated chicken flavor broth) hot
3 cups hot water
about 1 lb. cod or other fish (I used frozen filets) cut into chunks (I like large chunks, but make them whatever size you prefer)
2 cups frozen corn (or fresh if you have it)
1/2 cup chopped red/yellow/orange pepper
3 TB butter
3 TB flour
I cup hot milk
1/2 cup (or more) sharp cheddar cheese
pinch paprika and/or cayenne
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
dried dill to taste

Heat oil (and bacon grease if using) in soup pot. When hot add onion and cook till transparent, stirring occasionally and being careful not to let burn. Add crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and cook for about 1 more minute. Add chopped potato and stir to coat. Add broth and 2 cups of the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender. Add fish (still frozen is fine) and last cup of water, stirring to combine. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile melt butter in small saucepan. Add flour and stir constantly, cooking for about 3 minutes. Slowly add hot milk and stir to incorporate. Bring to a boil to thicken, stirring to dissolve lumps. Add cheese and paprika/cayenne and stir. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Add corn to soup and stir to distribute. Allow corn to warm up (if still frozen) and then add cheese sauce stirring to combine. Add chopped pepper(s), dill and salt and pepper.

Serve hot and forget about the weather.

5 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness!!! I can't believe I was visiting your spring flower type posts and then you get all this snow! I love snow but then again we hardly ever get any so it is easy for me to say. Because it comes rarely in the UK it feels like peace has descended, people stop and the world is transformed into a magical place. Of course many friends in the States have had way more snow than was pleasurable so I can imagine that would probably change my attitude if in their shoes. But I think its good that you turned around your mood by finding the beauty and the mix of woodland and snow is so Winter Fairyland or Narnia-esque that it cannot help but sweep us away into a better mood :-)

    I've sent you an email today asking if you'll join me on a one off blog hop interview thingy - really hope you can.

    Hugs
    Kat xx

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  2. Those snowy photos would make fantastic Chistmas cards or you could make a book/journal of all the 'hearts' that show up over the rest of the year. Using your word Anne, looking for 'joy' even when you are not feeling particularly joyful! I am sure that your family felt quite joyful after eating your wonderful nourishing fish chowder! I hope that the snow has melted now and that many more 'hearts' show up for you. :)

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  3. Wow - those trees look like an ice cathedral! So beautiful despite not being the sunny spring day you'd hoped for. Soup makes a good mood changer for a chilly day. Thank you for sharing your walk.

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  4. I cannot believe in that snow Anne, but also I have to admit that it does look beautiful and white :) It is also strange because last night I was dreaming that it is snowing in Edinburgh and today I found out that you are pretty much covered in snow. I wish I could send you some warmth air and invite you for a cuppa in the garden. Keep yourself warm! your fish chowder looks delicious and inspiring! Beautiful photos! have a lovely week, dear friend. Big hugs and lots of love to you!

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