It’s that time of year again…when temperatures drop, snow falls and we all begin dressing in endless layers. It’s officially scarf season [finally appropriate for me to wear them daily] and most importantly…it’s SOUP SEASON!!
With all the different varieties, I think I could actually live on soup alone for the entire winter. As a kid, I didn’t fancy seafood [I know…blasphemy!], but I made 2 exceptions: tuna salad sandwiches (yes, that would be fish from a can), and my mom’s amazing clam chowder. You won’t find me chomping on a tuna fish sandwich these days, but I guarantee you can catch me daydreaming about that chowder. You see, my mom usually makes it just once a year—on Christmas Eve. So the other 364 days are usually spent anxiously awaiting that salty, bacony, potatoy goodness. I know what you’re thinking…I should just make my mom’s clam chowder to get my fix whenever I want, but I can’t help but feel like I’d be committing some sort of sin by serving it up on any day other than December 24th! It does feel a lot more like December around here after 9 days below freezing, so I whipped up the next best thing to keep us warm…a Salmon and Shrimp Chowder inspired by my mom’s Christmas Eve staple.
It’s got some of the great things about chowder (potatoes, cream and my personal chowder requirement—bacon), along with a couple surprises (like carrots and fresh dill). “Traditionally” chowder is thickened with hardtack. What is that, you ask? Hardtack is a very dry, hard bread or cracker historically used for sustenance during long sea voyages and military campaigns. It is common in disaster preparedness kits and hardtack (also referred to as pilot bread or sea biscuit) is still used to endure the rigours of remote transport in Alaska. Want to know a hardtack fun fact? Seabiscuit (the champion Thoroughbred racehorse) is named after his father, Hard Tack (sired by one of the greatest of all time, Man o’ War). Ok, that’s my history lesson for the day…now back to soup!
These days, instead of hardtack, chowder is frequently thickened with crushed saltine crackers or a simple roux (both often filled with gluten), but this recipe is gluten-free! I don’t actually add any thickener at all, but the trick is to use enough potatoes to break some of them down (almost to a mash consistency), thereby thickening the soup naturally. Although I don’t think there will ever be a contender to rival my mom’s clam chowder for the best ever…I think this at least deserves 2nd place. So today I share with you the Second Best Gluten Free Seafood Chowder…and as Jennifer Aniston in the 1997 flick “Picture Perfect” would say, “Number 2…and that ain’t bad”. We are fast approaching the 2nd longest streak in Twin Cities history of sub-freezing November highs, so I better go put on some more layers and warm up a bowl of this delicious chowder!! Enjoy!
- 8 strips turkey bacon, half sliced into 1 inch strips
- 1 lb (about 3 med) red potatoes, skin on, cubed
- 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, sliced in 1/4" pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, diced fine
- 1 large carrot, chopped small
- 1 jalapeno, diced small (optional)
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
- 1.5 cups gluten free low sodium chicken/seafood stock
- 12-16 oz. wild caught salmon
- 1/2 lb (8-10) white or tiger shrimp, peeled
- 1 cup half & half
- 3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (I recommend KerryGold)
- 1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- Season salmon and shrimp with salt and pepper, plus your favorite seafood seasoning and set aside. (I use a combination of chipotle powder, garlic powder and Simply Organic seafood grilling seasoning.)
- Make bacon crumbles by cooking 4 whole strips of turkey bacon over medium-low heat until crisp (ideally on a cast iron skillet). Transfer to paper towels to drain and cut/crumble once dry.
- Cook 4 sliced strips of turkey bacon in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat for 3-4 mins, stirring occasionally. Bacon should still be pliable.
- Add oil, potatoes, onion, celery, garlic, carrot (and jalapeno if using) to the same pot with bacon, season with salt and pepper and cook until onion is softened (approx 5-6 mins), stirring often. (Note: If you're using regular bacon, the fat will likely omit the need for oil.)
- Add stock (enough to cover potatoes), stir and bring to a boil. Then cover, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 10-12 mins).
- Meanwhile, spray a large grill pan with cooking spray and cook salmon and shrimp over medium heat (salmon 4 mins per side, shrimp 2 mins per side). Remove from heat, cut into chunks and set aside.
- Using a potato masher, gently break down some of the potatoes to desired consistency. You will begin to see the liquid thicken up. Then stir in half & half, salmon, shrimp, dill and butter. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, finish with a little more salt and pepper, then serve with bacon crumbles and fresh dill.
- This can be a one pot dish by adding uncooked seafood to the chowder when adding the cream, but I recommend seasoning the salmon and shrimp and cooking them separately. This process infuses flavor into the seafood, ensures it is properly cooked before adding it to the soup, and saves time because you can do it while the potatoes are simmering.
- If gluten free stock is hard to find and you don't want to make your own, water can be used, but chowder will lack the extra flavor.
- This can be made dairy-free by using coconut milk in place of half & half and omitting the butter.
- If you like a little extra smoky flavor, try adding 2-4 oz wild smoked salmon!
If you’re the soup + sandwich sort, grab this awesome eCookbook by From Away to find this chowder’s perfect match!