A Buttery Wild Salmon Chowder

So, I had some wild salmon in the freezer. Normally I wouldn’t freeze it but I had bought a big package of it, then discovered there was no one home that day to eat it (teenage kids, you know).

I also had a taste for butter after finally seeing “Julie & Julia,” about Julia Child’s years in France and about the blogging lass who made every recipe in “The Art of French Cooking.” (Didn’t care all that much for the movie, but that’s another story.) Julia Child had no use for health food or people who badmouthed butter or red meat or anything else delicious. “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream” is one of her oft-quoted maxims. (She was referring to a specific recipe, but who can help but expand the sentiment to embrace food, and life, in general?)

Better yet, use both. So, I thawed the salmon,  got out the butter and cream, and went to work. The result was an outrageously good salmon chowder. If you’re one of those people who fear butter and cream, this is not the recipe for you. If you’re one of those people who love cream, butter and real salmon, not necessarily in that order, this recipe will have you licking the soup bowl.

Cooking the salmon before adding it to the chowder adds a step, but don’t skip it. It makes this chowder.

Wild Salmon Chowder

Makes 8 servings

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds wild salmon fillets
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 6 cups chicken broth or seafood stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay seasoning), or to taste
  • 4 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup canned or frozen corn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Minced fresh parsley, finely chopped scallions or minced fresh chives for garnish (optional)

Cook the salmon: In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the salmon, skin side down, and cook over medium-high heat, turning once,  until the salmon is just cooked through (it’s best if the fish is still a bit red in the center of the thickest portion). Remove the salmon from the pan. Do not discard the pan drippings. Remove and discard the salmon skin and separate the meat into bite-size chunks. Set aside.

Make the chowder: In a soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat until translucent. Stir in the broth, water, seafood seasoning and potatoes. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cook over medium-low heat until the potatoes are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the corn.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the reserved salmon pan drippings in the skillet. Stir in the flour. Stir in about a cupful of the hot cooking broth from the soup pot, then stir in the cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring, to make a smooth, somewhat thickened cream sauce. (If the flour is lumpy, whisk the sauce thoroughly.)

Add the cream mixture to the contents of the soup pot and stir. Stir in the reserved salmon and cook over medium-low heat just until heated through. Season with salt and pepper, garnish as desired, and serve immediately.