chowder

Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provençal (Southeast France) stew, typically made with fish and shellfish. Although it was originally made with rockfish, today it’s also made with all sorts of different seafood. For this recipe in particular, I decided to go with lobster and mussels; I like the idea of pairing two foods that are at opposite ends of the price spectrum (lobster = rare & elegant, mussels = common & unglamorous). This dish is paired with my lobster stock recipe, so be sure to check that out since you’ll need some stock. Putting this dish together – stock and all – is actually a fairly quick experience: in about 90 minutes you’ll have a recipe that will have your dinner guests swooning.

Don’t let the assumed costs of buying lobster deter you. If available in your area, live lobsters are surprising affordable when compared to the going rate at a seafood restaurant. And really, sometimes you can’t put a price tag on eating a rich, classic meal in the comfort of your own home.

Also, don’t forget that I’m hosting a giveaway this week; click here for a chance to win two live 1.5 lb lobsters from lobster.com ($65 value)! The giveaway is limited to continental US residents and ends midnight, Saturday, Feb 8th, 2014. Good luck!

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Ah, bratwurst. The German sausage has been around for a long time – the oldest recorded recipe is from the 15th Century, but it is mentioned in earlier texts. Germany (and Eastern Europe) in particular happened to be the perfect place to develop the sausages over time, because the cold winters and Northern winds were perfect conditions for testing out this cured meat. Historically, it’s also an excellent way to get nutrients into your system, as the sausages were full of parts that would have otherwise gone to waste (including some organ meats!).

Chowders made with bratwurst are popular in the United States, particularly in the Upper Midwest, but they are often full of beer and cheddar. Those aren’t bad things, mind you! But still, I wanted to make a recipe that captured the spirit and richness of those delicious chowders, but with some cleaner ingredients. Turns out a combination of chicken broth, cream, and a little aged cheddar did the trick nicely. I love this chowder in particular because it doesn’t take long to cook – about 45 minutes from start to finish – another benefit of cooking with sausage!

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NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Chowders get their name from the French word “chaudière” (kettle, pot), which in turn is derived from the Latin “caldāria” (cauldron). There’s quite a rivalry regarding the white, creamy New England Clam Chowder and the clear, tomato-based Manhattan Clam Chowder – in fact, a bill was introduced into the Maine legislature in 1939 attempting to make it illegal to add tomatoes to clam chowder.

Here’s another interesting fact – it wasn’t until the Second Vatican Council during the 1960s that Catholics were permitted to eat meat on Fridays (the abstinence period has been reduced to Lent now). To provide a seafood option to Catholics, restaurants across the country served clam chowder on Fridays, and the tradition remains today.

Creating a hearty, traditional wheat-free chowder is quite a challenge, since they are usually thickened with flour or soup crackers. Using starchy russet potatoes would naturally thicken the chowder, but also leave you with disintegrated potatoes. And then it struck me: I can cook the chowder using sturdier red potatoes, and thicken it with potato starch – leaving us with the best of both worlds.

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