A couple of nights ago, when I posted my first post to Facebook, my friend Andy mentioned he’d made clam chowder that night.
That immediately shot me back to one of my first memories of food made from scratch, and it filled my head with fish chowder.
In the eight grade, my science class went on a field trip to New Hampshire. I loved that teacher, so much. Because it was a pretty progressive Vermont school, we called our teachers by their first names, and his name was Mark. Mark was awesome. I liked dissecting things, and so Mark found me stuff to come in and dissect, for extra credit, after school. Two years ago, he ended up valiantly trying to teach chemistry to my youngest, with mixed results. But Thirtyshutup years ago, he was valiantly trying to teach science to 8th graders. He was (and remains) gifted, and giving, and I loved him.
I remember 3 things from that trip. 1) I kind of think there was a visit to a nuclear power plant involved. (Okay. I CLEARLY remember 2 things). 2) We went to visit the clam flats. Per dictionary.com, clam flats are a level stretch of mud, exposed by the tide, where clams burrow. And I remember that mud. Gilligan’s Island quicksand mud where you sink to your knees. Also, they smell strongly of what I guess is clam poop. 3) Fish chowder. On our last night there, we made fish chowder over a campfire, and I remember distinctly being so excited to come home and tell my mom, the feeder of us, all about it. I’d had clam chowder from Campbell’s before, of course, but this is the first time I remember realizing that, HOLY COW, YOU CAN MAKE STUFF YOU BUY IN CANS FROM SCRATCH! I have had other chowders since then. But I always think of that chowder, cooked over a campfire, with nostalgia, and love.
The other thing you should know is about my friend Jessica and Carla’s dad. I’ve had Jessica and Carla for almost forever, for Fortyshutup years, since I was 4. When I was little, I was really pretty scared of their Dad. He was a lot bigger than us, and he was not one of those people, I think, that finds little kids particularly cute. He could be kind of loud. Also, he had the best laugh you’ve ever heard in your life, and as I got older, I noticed that I could make him laugh, and the older I got, the more frequently it would happen. I really completely blame Dan, Carla and Jessica’s dad, for the fact that I judge men on whether they think my jokes are funny. Making Dan laugh is on the short list of things that I love and am thankful for in this world.
What in the hell do these things have to do with each other?
Well, I’m married to Scott. And I love him, in part, because he understands that I am hilarious. And he laughs at my jokes.
So, yesterday, I was at the supermarket. And all lined up in a row were three salmon heads, just staring at me. And you may not know this, but salmon heads are made of salmon. But not regular salmon, $1.49 a lb salmon. And as my mother has been known to say – “At that price, you really can’t afford not to buy them.” So I bought all three of them, thinking I would make some stock. But then I thought, “Heck, at 1.49 a pound, I could put them, mouth up, in the toilet to scare Scott in the middle of the night.”
I would never buy food just to waste it in this manner, and I, actually, would never do this, because there is a very actual risk that I would literally die laughing, but I did come home and tell Scott about this really excellent joke I’d thought of, and immediately he started laughing in that way that lets me know I’ve married the right guy.
What I did, instead, with the salmon heads, was throw them in the crockpot and cover them with water and cook them at low heat for about 24 hours, to make stock, which I will freeze and use and use and use.
Then I thought about that fish chowder all day, and then I came home and boy, howdy, did I ever make a delicious soup.
What you need:
- 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch squares
- A Tbsp of oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp of that garlic ginger paste from last night
- 2 potatoes, peeled, and tell your husband to cut them into 1/2 inch cubes but then he’ll really cut them into quarter inch cubes
- 1 12 oz bag of frozen corn
- Fish stock – about 6 or 8 ladles full
- 2 frozen tilapia filets, cut into about 1 inch squares
- Whatever salmon you’ve picked off the fish heads
- 4 cups of milk
- More salted butter than I’m ready to admit to
- Freshly ground pepper
- Oyster crackers
What you do:
- Fry the bacon over high heat (9 on my electric stove, which goes to 10) with the oil until it’s dark brown, and crunch looking. Pull it out with a slotted spoon, and drain it on paper towels.
- Add the onion to the oil and cook it for a few minutes on 7, until it’s translucent. Add the ginger garlic paste, and cook a little more, about a minute.
- Add the potatoes, and stir them around for about a minute, just for fun. Toss in the frozen corn.
- Add the fish stock, and bring it to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer (a 3 on my stove) until the potatoes are soft, maybe 10 minutes?
- Invite the salmon and tilapia to the party, and cook until just about done.
- Add the milk, turn up the heat long enough to bring it to a boil, and then turn it back down to about a 5 on my stove, and add the butter.
- When the butter is melting, start goofing around with the salt and pepper, (mostly the salt) until it’s right. I added about a quarter tsp at a time. Pepper, is really a matter of taste, and you should just add as much as you want.
- Garnish with the reserved bacon, and oyster crackers.
- Eat it.
- Maybe have seconds.
What it looks like:
What Scott said: “Pretty good”
What Amy said: “Yup. That’s the stuff.”
What the fish heads said: “Get us out of this toilet!”