Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dutch Oven Seafood Chowder - Without a Net

Today, I made Seafood Chowder. It would have been clam chowder, but we were out of those little cans of clams, and instead we had the little cans of crab and shrimp (about the size of tuna cans, you know. Same stuff).

What made it very interesting was that I made it without a recipe. With only my brainz as my guide. It was very exciting to fly without a net, so to speak, and to have it turn out so well.

I used the Roux base that Steven had shown me a few weeks ago, and just treated it a little bit differently, since I wasn't making a cheese sauce. I know, I know... Once I get a hold of something hot, I don't let up, do I?

Anyway, since I didn't have a recipe, I'm just going to talk you through it.

The first thing I did, after lighting up some coals, was get out one of my smaller dutch ovens and get it on top of about 15 coals or so, so it was getting good and hot. Into it, I put a half of a one-pound package of bacon, cut and separated into little squares. That started cooking.

Once that was going, I got out my 12" dutch oven, which was the one that I was going to do the actual chowder in, and got it on some coals, probably closer to 20. I had diced up some onions, and minced up some garlic (a couple of cloves) and I got that browning in that 12 dutch oven. At this point, there were no lids on, and, obviously, no coals on top.

While that was cooking, I was in the kitchen, quartering and slicing the potatoes, and slicing some celery. I did about four potatoes, and three or four stalks of celery.

Pretty soon, the bacon was nice and crisp, and the onions were starting to brown. It was a pretty cheap grade of bacon, so there was lots of grease left in the smaller dutch oven. I pulled the bacon out and put it in with the onions, and left the drippings. To that, I added some flour. You don't want to add it too quickly, because you could easily add too much. I added until it was a little runnier than cookie dough. I just let it cook.

I wanted to see what happened as you cook a roux longer and longer, so I let it go for a while. It gradually got more and more brown. Finally, I saw that it was getting nice and tanned, so I pulled that dutch oven off the coals.

In the meantime, the onions, garlic, and bacon were still browning nicely in the other dutch oven. I added a pint carton of cream, and about half that much of milk, maybe less. To help it to boil, I put the lid on.

Once it was boiling, I added the potatoes, the celery, and three little cans of seafood, with the liquid. I figured the seafood stock in the cans would enhance the flavor. Once it was boiling again, I added some of the roux, about a tablespoon at a time, stirring vigorously to break it up in the soup. I watched carefully after each tablespoonful of roux for a minute to check the thickness before adding more. If it goes too thick, I guess you can always just add more milk, but I don't want to catch myself adding and adding to catch up with myself over and over again.

Pretty soon, it's nice and thick, but still more of a soup than a sauce. You can make it how you like it.

At that point, I added some parsley, some salt and pepper (to taste on all three), and also some lemon juice. Then I pulled some of the coals out from under so that it would go from boil to simmer, and put the lid back on.

I would check it about every 15 minutes, just to check the taste and the done-ness of the potatoes. It didn't take long, maybe 45 minutes to be done.

While that was happening, I made some homemade bisquick and then some Red Lobster-style garlic cheese biscuits in another 12" dutch oven. I'll write about those tomorrow or Tuesday.

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