Tuesday, March 13, 2012
One of the nice things about fish night is that everyone can eat the same thing. But I ruined that by using some of my smoked ham hock in one batch of fish chowder, and making the other one ham free. I heated two pots on the stove, added a tablespoon of butter to each, and sauteed half a leek and half a large onion in each. I added a diced stalk of celery and a diced carrot to each as well, and about 1/2 cup of finely diced ham hock meat to one. While I let the aromatics get a touch of brown to them I peeled and diced 4 big yellow finn potatoes and added half to each pot. I covered the potatoes with water, just to the top of the potatoes, and added salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. I brought everything to a boil, and turned the heat down to simmer till the potatoes were just barely cooked.
While the potatoes cooked I diced the cod into 1 inch chunks, and scrubbed the mussels, discarding one with a broken shell. My husband and my younger son made a batch of biscuits, they use the Beard on Bread recipe, and I am pretty sure they both have it memorized. I also peeled a few carrots and sliced some bell peppers and fennel into thin slices, cut the carrots into sticks, and arranged the veggies on the table. My older kids set the table and got a pitcher of water out. As soon as the potatoes were just barely done I put the fish, a bunch of milk, and a glug of cream in each pot and turned the heat up, when it boiled I turned the heat down to simmer for a few minutes, and added a big handful of minced parsley and half of the mussels to each pot. The mussels steamed open and the soup was done.
I make a very similar soup with smoked trout that is something like a bowl of Cullen Skink my daughter and I had in Scotland last summer. The great thing about the ham hock is it gave that same smokey taste to the soup, and I loved it. My husband and kids preferred the plain chowder to either the Cullen Skink or the chowder with ham hock. I probably wouldn't bother with the ham hock for this recipe again, it's easier to just use the smoked trout and then every one can eat it. Cullen Skink is normally made with smoked Haddock, but Star Prairie smoked trout is local and wonderful.