This soup feels like the Northwest. It feels like the Northwest during the cooler days of June. Yes, bright strawberries dot their plants with crimson and copious amounts of arugula fluff up from the ground, but the amount of sunny days is matched by the amount of overcast ones. Recently, on one such overcast day, I unearthed this recipe clipping from my dubiously sorted stash (there are only four pockets in my holder, so this came from the “protein/meat/main dish” department).
The thick, chunky chowder warmed our evening, but the fresh fennel and leeks reminded us that they’re just the beginning–more summertime vegetables will follow. Even though it seems rich, the soup only contains minimal fat (two tablespoons of butter and no cream), and since the smoked salmon is used just as a topping, you get more bang for your buck. The dish is a delicious version of chowder to begin with, but the rich salmon turns it into a special soup–we served it to company.
Leek Fennel Chowder with Smoked Salmon (adapted from Sunset Magazine)
Yield: 8 servings
2 Tablespoons butter
2 large leeks, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and sliced into half-moons
2 fennel bulbs, sliced (I cut mine in quarters lengthwise, then cut each quarter in half lengthwise, then sliced crosswise)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 dried bay leaf
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (if your potatoes have nice, thin skins, you can leave them unpeeled)
1 bunch scallions, sliced (white and light green parts only)
4 cups milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound smoked salmon, separated into small chunks (I used my hands)
Chives, chopped, for garnish
Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel, sprinkle with salt, and cover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks and fennel are tender, 10-12 minutes. Add the broth and bay leaf. Increase the heat to high and bring the pot to a boil. Add the potatoes and scallions to the pot. Bring the soup back to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk the milk, flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Add the milk mixture to the pot of soup. Increase the heat to high and stir the soup until it boils and thickens. Add more salt and pepper to taste.