Steelhead & Leek Chowder

I really missed the food culture in Western Oregon while I was living halfway across the country. Every summer when I visited I would get myself immediately to the farmer’s market, and year after year I’d be totally blown away by all of the beautiful and plentiful food. And while I’m looking forward to the super-bountiful summer growing season, I’ve been enamored with all of the amazing, local food I am still able to get in the middle of winter, especially meats and seafood.

My newest favorite stop is Flying Fish Company on Hawthorne Blvd. here in Portland. I love it not only because they carry a huge variety of the freshest, most beautiful fish, they also have farm-fresh, local eggs, pork, lamb, and organ meats (among other things).

Earlier this week I stopped by and picked up a beautiful filet of Steelhead (see below), a dozen fresh oysters from Netarts Bay on the Oregon Coast, and an extremely fresh, deep, rich red hunk of beef liver.

Steelhead Filet

Steelhead belong to the same genus as salmon, but they are actually a species of sea-going trout. Unlike other trout which live their entire lives in rivers, steelhead are migrate to the Pacific where they mature for a few years before return to their hatching waters to spawn. Steelhead eat a diet essentially identical to salmon, so they are wonderfully fatty and omega-3 rich.

Steelhead makes a great addition to this basic chowder recipe, but almost any type of seafood could be used. Salmon, halibut, shrimp, oysters, and perhaps most classically, clams, come to mind.

Be sure to add the fish at the last minute so that it does not become overcooked.  If you’re planning on storing and then reheating the chowder, remove the soup from the heat before adding the fish and then stir regularly to help it to cool more quickly.

Salmon & Leek Chowder

Steelhead & Leek Chowder
*serves 8*

4 Tbsp. (½ a stick) butter
3 large leeks (see preparation instructions below)
2 stalks celery, small dice
1 medium carrot, small dice
5 – 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 C. dry white wine
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 qt. fish stock (if your fishmonger doesn’t sell it fresh, check the freezer section at your grocery store)
1 qt. cold water
2 ½ # russet potatoes, large dice (roughly ¾” cubes)
2 # salmon, cut into 1” chunks
S & P

To prepare the leeks, cut off the tops and bottoms and discard, leaving only the white and lightest green part of each leek. Split the leeks lengthwise and rinse thoroughly under cold running water to remove and dirt or sand from between the layers. Cut each cleaned leek in half lengthwise once again and then chop each length into approximately 1/4″ pieces.

Steelhead & Leek Chowder

Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat.  Add the leeks, season them generously with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring often, for 6 – 8 minutes or until very soft. Add the celery, carrot, and garlic, and continue to cook for a few minutes longer until garlic is fragrant. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine all ingredients thoroughly. Add the wine, bay leaves, and thyme, increase the heat, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the wine has reduced by half.

Add your potatoes, fish stock, and cold water along with a generous pinch of salt. Cover the pot, increase the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and reduce the heat so that the chowder is at a moderate simmer.  Cook the potatoes for approximately 15-18 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender and just beginning to fall apart.

Add the Steelhead and cook for 5 minutes more, or until it is just cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

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