Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trout Chowder

I've been putting a lot of thought into cooking local food. Given my location; Toronto and more widely, Southern Ontario, I often wonder, what is the cuisine of this area? What defines this region? Well, I know that we have amazing agricultural potential. The Holland Marsh, just north of me boasts some of the world's richest and most fertile soil. One visit to Sanagan's Meat Locker or my local butcher, Close to the Bone, reveals a long and diverse list of Ontario meat farmers practicing the lost art of proper animal husbandry and sustainable meat production. We have several wine regions within a stone's throw and it would be an understatement to say we have a few good brew masters and microbreweries around the town. So why not go for the gusto and really try to push the envelope? I want to make food that reflects my region's climate, history and culture. Anyway, with these thoughts in mind, I posted my last two recipes: pickerel cakes and corn chowder. A good start, I believe.

So, onwards and upwards.

I had a dinner guest recently for whom I roasted some lovely trout fillets accompanied by fresh and crisp broad beans along with a lemony hollandaise sauce. While I was cleaning and preparing these trout I noticed I had lots of bits and bones that were going to end up in the bin, but this seemed wasteful, so on a whim, I threw them in a sauce pan (thin belly bits of the fillets, some fins, bones and heads) along with some water, whole peppercorns, a few bay leaves (right out of the garden) and and a couple of whole shallots, split in half with their skins left on. I put this pot on the back burner and let it merrily simmer away while I got on to the dinner. In France and many other cultures, a fish stock is a no-brainer. Never waste fish bits, in fact, in the South of France, a proper fish stock is the basis for many of their best dishes such as bouillabaisse. There's a lot of flavour in those bones!

Anyway, we went on to enjoy our trout with hollandaise sauce and the trout stock (strained and put in large container), along with about four or five ounces of leftover trout went into the fridge to be addressed the following day. I wasn't exactly sure what to do with these remnants, but I had to do something. It's hot outside. I long for the crisp air of autumn, so I will make a belly warming chowder and try to conjure images in my head of golden leaves, misty breath and cold mornings. 

My second chowder in a week! I am really longing for the winter aren't I? 

Anyway, I was very pleased with these results, and I dare say I like this chowder better with trout then with clams. Unlike slightly chewy clams, the trout melts in the mouth. Also, this trout was procured from a local and sustainably operated rainbow trout hatchery - no more than an hour's drive from my home - truly local!

Trout Chowder

1 small(about 200g)rainbow trout fillet, skinned and pin bones removed and chopped into bit size chunks
3 large russet (or other floury) potatoes, peeled and chopped into a medium dice
1 large onion (or 2 small), peeled and diced finely
1 liter of trout stock (see discussion above, vegetable or chicken stock will also work)
50 ml of heavy cream
125 ml of milk
50 ml of white wine
2 tbs of all purpose flour
2 tbs of butter
1 tsp of Dijon Mustard
A bunch of fresh dill
Salt and ground white pepper

(Note: This chowder was originally conceived using leftover, pre-cooked trout. Because of this, I added it in at the last minute to simply warm through. However, I have adjusted this recipe to start from scratch with raw trout. This will feed four for appetizer or two with hearty appetite)

First, get your trout stock on a burner and bring it up to an enthusiastic simmer. Then get the potatoes into the stock to cook. Cover and let simmer. In the meantime, get a large skillet on the hob and get half of the butter going in it. then get your onions in and on a low-to-medium heat, very gently cook down these onions so that they are soft, translucent, but not taking on much colour (about 10-12 minutes). Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce it down until it is almost gone. Then add the second half of the butter in with the onions and get the heat up a bit. Once the butter starts to foam, drop in your flour and start incorporating it so that you get an onion-y roux forming. Cook this for a bit so that the raw flour taste is gone and then pour in the milk and turn the heat up so that you're getting a good bubble, then add the mustard. Start mixing the heck out of this so that the milk doesn't scorch and it will start to thicken up very quickly. Then get a ladlefull of your trout stock and get it into the onion mix to thin it out a bit and temper it. Then pour the entire contents of the onion pan into the pot with the stock and the potatoes (which by now will probably be nice and tender - if they are not, take the onions of the heat and wait until the potatoes are fork tender before adding). Once everything is incorporated into a single pot, bring it up to solid boil and allow the thickening to continue and the soup to reduce somewhat, stirring gently and regularly. This will take about 7 or 8 minutes. Then take an immersion blender and give the soup three or four very quick pulses with the blender, but don't over do it. You want to retain some of the chunks of the potato, but you also want some of the potatoes to break down and thicken the broth up further. Once you like the consistency of the soup, dial back the heat to bare simmer and then drop in the trout. It will only need about five minutes to cook. Check occasionally to see if it is starting to flake (it's done when it can flake), but for heaven's sake don't over cook it! This soup will require plenty of seasoning because the stock had no salt in it. So season aggressively at this point and keep checking to make sure your happy. Along with salt, add your white pepper. I think it lends a certain unique flavour to this soup. A pinch or two will do (again adjust to your taste). Finally, add in a tbs or so of chopped fresh dill and pour in the heavy cream. Make sure everything is blended nicely, but be gentle when stirring, once cooked, the trout will be delicate.

To serve, ladle into bowls and drizzle with additional cream and top with fresh dill sprigs.

1 comment:

  1. I have made this twice now, and it is almost unspeakably good. A winner for sure. I crave it when the weather is windy and cold. It's so delicious I didn't want to share it with my children (but I did!) Thank you for sharing!