A continuing series on weekly meals that use sustainable, organic, local and ethical food during the challenging winter months. For more information, go here to the DDC section of Not Dabbling in Normal’s website: Dark Days Challenge.
In which I make delectable local scallop chowder with homemade fish stock and home-cured bacon.
Subtle, flavorful and nearly monochromatic chowder seemed just right for the dullest of dull days in February, sky blanched, fields blanched, nobody moving. This is a meal of patience, based on how it’s made, slowly and deliberately. No flashy culinary tricks, just simplicity and calm. One pot, two bowls.
It starts with a great base of strong fish stock, although strong chicken stock makes a fine substitute or supplement. A few weeks ago, in Dark Days #5, I wrote about a lovely whole sea bass that my husband brought back from the shore. After I deboned it, I turned the fish frame and scraps into a strong fish stock that’s been stored in my freezer since then. That was the first part of the patient cooking involved with this chowder, since the bones are left to sweat for a while before being gently poached in liquid.
Here, the potatoes are cooked rather rapidly to get them started but the addition of cabbage slows things down. The scallops cook in the liquid off the heat. I used my home-cured bacon. It wasn’t smoked so it worked well, little cubes cooked slowly to render their fat and then re-combined with the chowder at the end. This is another inspiration from Jasper White’s 50 Chowders. I haven’t made all 50 but I’m getting there.
Scallop and Cabbage Chowder adapted from Jasper White
1/3-inch thick slice slab bacon, cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium onion, cut into 3/4-inch dice
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 medium-large potato (red skinned or yellow), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
3 c fish stock or chicken stock or a combination
¼ small head of Savoy cabbage, cut into ¾-inch pieces
½ lb sea scallops, cut into ¾-inch pieces
¼ c heavy or light cream
Salt and pepper
Optional garnish: sliced scallions or chives
Heat a saucepan over low heat and add the bacon. After the bacon has rendered some of its fat, turn the heat to medium and cook it until brown. Remove the bacon and set it aside.
Add the onion, thyme and bay leaf to the pan, cooking them slowly, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent.
Add the potatoes and enough of the fish stock just to cover them. Turn up the heat and bring the liquid to a boil, cooking the potatoes vigorously for 5-7 minutes, until they just start to soften.
Add the cabbage and additional stock, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the potatoes are soft on the outside but still firm in the middle.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the scallops, cover the pan and it sit covered for 5 minutes. Add the cream and let the chowder sit, covered, for another 10 minutes until the scallops are cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste, return the bacon to the chowder and remove the bay leaf.
This can sit for an hour to let the flavors meld. When ready to serve, place the solids in the serving bowls, warm the liquid and ladle it over the top, adding the optional garnish as you please.
Serves two generously.