Salmon Chowder with Cilantro Pesto
Adapted from “Wild Alaskan Seafood: Celebrated Recipes from America’s Top Chefs” by James O. Fraioli
Chowder usually conjures up images of rubbery clams flanked by mushy potatoes suffocating in a white pool of glop. In this version by chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, tender chunks of fresh salmon are cooked in a lightly thickened, brothy soup, which is then garnished with a swirl of bright cilantro pesto.
What to buy: If you can’t find Copper River salmon, get the freshest salmon you can find. See our guide to types of salmon for more on the different varieties of the fish, and learn where to buy seafood online if your local sources are lacking.
For the pesto:
- 2 bunches cilantro, bottom 2 inches trimmed and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2 medium)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the chowder:
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 medium yellow onion, large dice
- 1 large carrot, peeled and large dice
- 1 celery stalk, large dice
- 1 large russet potato, peeled and large dice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 4 cups (32 ounces) clam juice
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh Copper River salmon, skin removed and large dice
- 2 dashes Tabasco Sauce, plus more as needed
- Juice of 1/2 medium lemon, plus more as needed
For the pesto:
1Place all the ingredients in a blender and process, stopping the blender to scrape down the sides often, until a smooth paste has formed.
For the chowder:
1Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, potato, and measured salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
2Add the clam juice and wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a brisk simmer and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and milk, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes.
3In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter with the flour, using your fingers to form a smooth paste. Press the paste into the wire loops on the bottom of a whisk and whisk into the chowder until dissolved and evenly dispersed. Season the salmon with salt and pepper, add it to the chowder, and continue to simmer until the salmon is just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove the chowder from heat and stir in the Tabasco and lemon juice. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, Tabasco, and lemon juice as needed.
1Divide the chowder among serving bowls and top with a spoonful of cilantro pesto.
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