Cooking. Recipes. I used to follow them to the letter, until I had kids. Then shortcuts started happening, or I didn’t have the exact ingredients, or I just thought it might taste better if…
My husband is still a slave to the recipe, no matter what it may be. Which is better? Someone who follows a recipe down to the last quarter teaspoon of water in the pan, or someone who is creative as they cook?
It all boils down (pun intended) to the recipe itself. The trick is finding the right one – and I still go by instinct rather than solid knowledge when I look for a recipe.
For instance, about three months ago hubby decided he’d make a fish chowder. For some reason I wasn’t home that day, so he found a recipe online and made this chowder. When I got home the next evening, he stood at the stove, reheating his creation from the night before.
“Fix this,” he said to me, and thrust the spoon into my hand. “It was bland and boring last night. Please, make it taste better.”
I sipped. He was right, bland and boring. But once you’ve added the cream to the chowder, there’s not much more you can do to it. I tried; I added creamed corn and some thyme, and a little bit of sherry. That brought the chowder up to not-bland and not-boring, but certainly not the chowder he was trying to recreate (from a restaurant we’d eaten at in Monterey in early March).
Time rolled on, until this past weekend. Fish Chowder, says the husband. I agreed to make it if he bought the fish. And it was my turn to hit the internet for a recipe.
Most of the flavor of a good seafood chowder comes before you add the fish and the cream. The recipe I ultimately found had all the ingredients it needed to be tasty – olive oil and butter, onions, dry white wine, potatoes, clam juice, Old Bay seasoning and thyme, for starters.
The New England Fish Chowder recipe that I found from Simply Recipes had everything I needed. The interesting thing about this recipe? If I wanted to omit the fish and add shrimp, clams, and crab, that too would taste amazing. Because most of the flavor is in the base of the chowder, not the fish itself. Two cups of clam juice was what it took to make this chowder lip-smackingly good.
The recipe itself calls for Pacific Cod, as its a sustainable fish here in the west. I used Tilapia because it’s cheap. I also, at the last minute, threw in a pound of cut-up raw shrimp just before the Tilapia was cooked – the shrimp cooked up in a minute or so and added nice color to the chowder (and as the shrimp was on special, $5 a pound, I didn’t totally blow the grocery budget).
Overall, it was a winner. We had the leftovers last night, and I didn’t have to do a thing to make it taste better! Oh, and we had a Chenin Blanc wine to go with it. Decent pairing, but I would have preferred an oaky Chardonnay.
Some people may think fish chowder is a funny recipe to make during the summer – but days can be foggy and cool here in June, and sometimes a hearty fish chowder can both warm you up and still make it feel like summer, with that taste of the sea.
What are some of your favorite summer dishes?
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