Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Whiskey Smoked Salmon Chowder

I’m from the Pacific Northwest. I love salmon—especially wild salmon caught by my Uncle Jim and made with his “secret recipe” marinade. I love chowder—especially with a side of clam strips and chips from Ivar’s down on the waterfront in Seattle. Naturally this recipe for Whiskey Smoked Salmon Chowder called out to me when I saw it. I made it one autumn night at my sister’s when my parents were in town. Then, about a week ago, with the weather perfectly pre-spring chilly, I started to crave it again. But March decided to antagonize me. The temperature turned, and all of a sudden it was July-hot—hot enough for tank tops, shorts, irritation with other drivers on the road, and salads for dinner. Definitely too hot for chowder. But I’m going to post the recipe anyway and have faith that the fog will roll in and the cold will return before the true heat wave of summer in LA begins.

Whiskey Smoked Salmon Chowder
adapted from Gourmet or Food & Wine (I shouldn’t have cut this recipe out without noting the source!)


• 1/4 cup butter
• 2 onions, finely chopped
• 6 celery stalks, finely chopped
• Pinch saffron threads, optional
• 8 small red or white potatoes peeled and diced (2-3 cups)
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh fennel bulb
• 2 cups milk
• 2 8-oz. bottles clam juice
• 2-1/2 cups corn kernels
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 2-4 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 teaspoon lobster base, optional
• 1 pound smoked salmon, cut into small pieces
• Juice and zest of 1 small lemon
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
• 2 oz. Jack Daniel's whiskey
• Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot and sauté the onions, celery, and saffron over medium heat until softened.

2. Add the potatoes and fennel and sauté briefly before pouring in the milk and clam juice. Cover, and let the mixture simmer on medium heat until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.

3. Add the corn, cream, tomato paste, and lobster base.

4. Cook 5 minutes more, add the salmon, lemon juice, lemon zest, dill, and whiskey. Season with salt and pepper

Notes on ingredients:

Saffron: To me this is not optional. Saffron gives chowder a wonderfully buttery flavor. It can be purchased inexpensively at Cost Plus/World Market.

Lobster paste: I was too lazy to go out and hunt this down, and the chowder tasted just fine without it.

Tomato paste: I don’t like the taste of tomato paste. It reminds me of cheap pizza from my childhood, so I didn’t use it. Again, the chowder was great without it.

Salmon: I was on a budget when I made this so I used only half a pound. I think this kept the chowder from being too rich. I plan to try a full pound next time just to see the difference.

Photo by Julie Fay Ashborn

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

And the Oscar goes to: Caramelized Onion Tarts With Apples

Another annual tradition: the Oscar party. For more than a decade my sister and I have been hosting an Oscar get-together where everyone throws cash into a kitty and bets on the winners, and—best of all—makes a movie and/or actor-themed dish. This year (and last) because neither Julie or I have TV, our dear friend Sarah enthusiastically took over hostessing duties and opened her home to everyone and their creative dishes, including The Fantastic Mr. Slaw, Coralime Pie, The Brine Side, and my oh-so-popular George Clooney Is Hot And So Are These Meatballs—what am going to do one year if George isn’t nominated for something?

I also tried a new dish: Caramelized Onion Tarts With Apples. Aka, Crazy Tart! This recipe is incredibly easy and makes two attractive tarts. I played with it a bit, adding thyme to give the flavor some texture. The only problem I had with this recipe is that it’s hard to get good apples these days. Even if I go to the Farmer’s Market, chances are they’ll be mushy. I think I’d like to try this with pears next time. It’s definitely one of those recipes that begs for experimentation, depending on what’s in season.

Caramelized Onion Tarts With Apples
adapted from Real Simple


- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 2 red apples (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into small pieces
- Sprig of fresh thyme
- Fresh ground salt and black pepper
- 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche


1) Heat oven to 400º F.

2) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. (For some reason I find that I always have to cook onions longer than a recipe calls for. In this case 20-25 minutes covered to get them to a caramelized state.) Put the sprig of thyme in with the onions and let it simmer.

3) Remove thyme. Stir in the apples, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until just tender, 2 minutes.

4) Place each sheet of pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.

5) Spread with the crème fraîche, leaving a ½-inch border.

6) Top with the onion mixture and bake until the pastry is crisp and browned, 30 to 35 minutes.

7) Cut into pieces before serving.

**Photos by Julie Fay Ashborn

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Rolled Fillets of Breast of Chicken with Pork and Rosemary Filling

I love trying new recipes, but doing this always has two opposing effects on me. 1) I get excited, hoping the dish might turn out to be terrific. 2) I’m terrified I’ll blow it. This recipe leaned heavily on the latter because I was making it to impress, and because one part of the instructions didn’t seem quite right to me.

After the pork was cooked and rolled in the raw chicken fillets, I was supposed to cook the rolls briefly in a skillet. To be specific: for only one minute! Granted, I am notorious for overcooking chicken, but “one minute altogether” planted fears of food poisoning in my head. A mutual decision during the cooking process turned that one minute into ten (explained below).

I had prepared the rolls a few hours ahead of time (preparing them was easy), and I think this gave the flavors time to steep before cooking in the skillet. Fresh pork from the butcher and fresh rosemary also made a difference. I added a side dish of fingerling potatoes roasted with olive oil and thyme, and the meal was almost perfect. A fresh green salad would have rounded it out nicely.

Rolled Fillets of Breast of Chicken with Pork and Rosemary Filling
adapted from the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
by Marcella Hazan


- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 lb. ground pork
- Salt
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
- 2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- 2 whole boneless chicken breasts
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- Kitchen string
- 1/2 cup dry white wine


1) Lightly mash the garlic with a heavy knife handle, just hard enough to split the skin, which you will remove and discard. Put the garlic in a skillet together with the oil, turn on the heat to medium, and cook the garlic until it has become colored a pale gold. Add the ground pork, salt, pepper, and the rosemary leaves. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and crumbling the meat with a fork. Discard the garlic and, using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the meat to a plate.

2) Lay the chicken fillets flat on a work surface and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Spread the pork filling over the fillets, and roll up each fillet tightly. Tie each roll as if wrapping ribbon around gift (see photo).

The rolls can be prepared up to this point several hours in advance.

3) Spoon off most of the fat from the pan in which you cooked the pork. (If you made the chicken rolls some time in advance, degrease the pan at that time, and reserve the juices in the pan for when you are ready to resume cooking.) Add the butter, turn the heat on to medium high, and when the butter foam begins to subside, slip in the chicken rolls. Turn down the heat to medium, cover the pan, and cook the chicken for about ten minutes, checking regularly to make sure the rolls don’t overcook and turning regularly to make sure they brown on all sides. Transfer to a warm serving platter, using a slotted spoon or spatula.

4) Add the wine to the skillet, and while it simmers briskly for about half a minute, use a wooden spoon to scrape loose cooking residues from the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the cooking juices over the chicken rolls and serve at once.