Saturday, April 23, 2011

Finnan Haddie Chowder

creamy smoky goodness...

Sorry I've been a bit quiet lately...never fear, I've been eating plenty :)

I love fish, I love chowder, and I love smoked really, this is the perfect combination for me : some of my favorite things, in convenient spoonable form. Not to mention Lent-friendly and made from items I had around the house...and I happen to come from a long line of chowder makers and great aunt, Narnie, was a particular mistress of the art. Really, I had no choice !!

First, a word about Finnan Haddie itself. Finnan Haddie is Scottish in origin (like me....well, partially ;) ) . It is a lightly smoked haddock, "Finnan" referring to the village of Findon, Scotland and "haddie" being, of course, haddock. In the Scots vernacular, "Findon Haddock" eases its way to "Finnan Haddie". The official origins are unknown - it probably didn't take cavemen long to figure out that the food that picked up smoke from the fire not only tasted better, but lasted longer - and many, many cultures have been salting and smoking fish since the beginning of time. I did once read a charming story about a shack full of salted fish in Findon that had the misfortune of having the building next door catch on fire, and the surprised villagers finding that it actually tasted better....thus resulting in the first Finnan Haddie. I find this one a little far fetched - for one thing, it not verra easy to surprise a Scotsman, and I don't think he'd admit it if you did ;). Still, a charming most Scottish ones are.

Our Finnan Haddie came from fish that we actually caught and smoked ourselves (see fishing trip here, recipe here, and picture of the smoking fish here.  ) . The fish is brined, and then smoked - here's a picture of the finished product :

Och, a lovely wee platter o' fishies ;)

Traditional Finnan Haddie is lightly smoked - so lightly that it's actually not quite fully cooked. Ours ended up more smoke-cooked, which was actually preferable - the boy happily ate up quite a bit of it with cream cheese on bagels for breakfast. It also froze beautifully, which is why I still had two pounds left to make this lovely, lovely chowder. True Finnan Haddie is available in many markets, or you can order it online . We found a great smokehouse on a road trip last summer, Bold Coast Smokehouse , which we would highly recommend for anything - including Finnan Haddie. The basics of the chowder are quite straightforward : simmer the haddock in a sort of quickie court bouillon of water and aromatic vegetables, then use the delicious smoky bouillon to cook the potatoes, add the fish back in along with milk and cream, and slowly heat (never boil) until the flavors are happily melded and the whole thing is a silky, hot, delicious Culinary Orgasm.

One last word before we get into the recipe...well, two words : salt pork. Traditionally, chowders are made with salt pork - Narnie would definitely not have made it any other way. However, to keep this recipe Lent-friendly ( and hey, also kosher...I'm good like that)  , I have substituted butter. To do it right, you would render about 1/4 pound of salt pork and saute the onion and celery in the fat. (To render, cut pork into small bits and slowly cook in the bottom of your pot until you are just left with crispy bits and lovely pork fat. When we were kids we used to fight over who got to eat the bits...but you can also just garnish the chowder with them).

Finnan Haddie Chowder
Serves six, generously

To poach haddock :

3 cups water
1 tsp peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 leafy celery stalk, roughly chopped (leaves and all)
1 small onion, roughly chopped
(Optional - if using leeks, include the dark green leafy tops here, chopped up a bit)
2 pounds Finnan Haddie (smoked haddock)

Bring all ingredients except haddock to a boil in a large, flat saucepan that will also hold the fish in one layer if possible. Add haddock and lower heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer covered for 15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork (don't break it apart totally, though, because you're going to need to transfer it to your chowder).

Chowder :

2 tablespoons butter (or rendered salt pork - see above)
1 onion, finely chopped (or two leeks, white and tender green only, chopped)
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 large potatoes (a starchy, all purpose type if possible), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme

In a Dutch oven or heavy stockpot, melt the butter (or render and remove salt pork.) Add onion (or leek) and celery, and saute until onion is soft but not brown. Set a strainer in the pot, and strain the haddock poaching liquid right in.. Add potatoes, bring to a boil, then turn down to a healthy simmer until potatoes are done, about 15 minutes. Now add the haddock back in - breaking it up as you do - and add the milk, cream, and thyme. Slowly bring to the barest simmer to heat through, about 10 - 15 minutes or so.

ready to eat !


1 comment:

  1. Yum! This looks absolutely delicious. I love the idea of chowder using smoked fish...and cream, and butter ARE good like that!