New England Fish Chowder

January 6, 2012

Unfortunately, I only ate seafood once during my recent trip to Seattle; wild-caught salmon chowder at Ivar’s while waiting for the ferry to Bainbridge Island. As you might expect, salmon chowder in the Pacific Northwest completely out-classes Chris Kimball’s chowder; with bolder and richer flavors. Still, Chris Kimball’s supermarket-cod-based Fish Chowder is worth making. It has nice, simple, balanced flavors. It is easy to make and doesn’t make much of a mess. The biggest problem is that my kids wouldn’t eat it, though it wasn’t overly fishy. 4 stars.

Delicious Fish Chowder

Incidentally, today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas; Three Kings Day. I am making my tamales again this year, and will let you know how it goes.


  1. One of those supermarket scanning errors meant I got my two pounds of cod for free; their scanner was supposed to take off $1/lb but instead took off a fixed $1/order. I’ve listed the recipe’s price as $14, which is what it would have cost had I paid the $6/lb sale price. Sometimes things just work out fantastically; a huge pot that fed me for 3 days cost just $2 to make.
  2. I’m definitely going to try this recipe with Salmon, though I won’t be able to buy fish of the same quality in my northeastern supermarket. I really enjoyed the extra flavor of the chowder I ate from Ivar’s.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $14.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 11:00 AM. Finish time 12:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared this today are given below:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 onions (about 1-1/4 lbs)
4-oz salt pork
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
5 cups water
2 pounds skin-less cod fillets
1-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch

  1. Cut onions into a large 1/2″ dice. Mince fresh thyme. Remove the rind from salt pork, cut into two pieces and rinse under cold water to remove the excess surface salt.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven set over medium burner. Add minced onions, salt pork, minced thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 bay leaf. Saute for 4 minutes until the onions become softened, but have not browned.
  3. Add 5 cups of cold water and bring to simmer.  Meanwhile peel and cut your potatoes into 1/2″ dice. Also slice your fish crosswise into 6 equal sized pieces.
  4. After reaching a simmer, remove from heat and put your fish fillets into water. Cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes. The fish will be nearly cooked and just opaque. Use a metal spatula to carefully remove from pot and place in a medium bowl.
  5. Return Dutch oven to medium-high burner, adding diced potatoes. Bring back up to a simmer, and cook uncovered for about 25 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender and begin to break apart.
  6. While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together 2 cups milk, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. When potatoes are tender stir in the milk mixture and bring back up to a simmer.
  7. Finally, add back the mostly-cooked-fish and accumulated juices into pot. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand for 5 more minutes.
  8. Remove the salt pork and bay leaf; discard. Stir chowder gently to break fish up into large pieces. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste. Serve immediately, garnishing with minced chives, crumbled bacon bits, or oyster crackers (Krispy is the preferred brand).

Ivar's on Seattle's Waterfront; next to the ferries

Red-Wine Braised Pork Chops

January 3, 2012

I wanted my two sons to whole-heartedly enjoy my first recipe of the New Year, so I played it safe with Pork Chops. Usually I’ve only braised entire roasts or other large pieces of meat; never individual cuts. The technique proved very successful; and perfect for a lazy winter’s day (i.e. little actual effort, great smells for hours and hours, warm kitchen). Don’t be put off by the 4 hour cooking time from start to finish; these wine-braised pork chops actually require very little effort. They are brined and slow braising to kept them very moist. Also an exceptionally long rest of 35 to 40 minute helped ensure the pork didn’t lose their juiciness. My only complain is that without  searing the chops; the meat looked grey and unappetizing. In fact, the meat was tender and flavorful, and it is only it’s appearance that is unappetizing. 4-stars.

First recipe of 2012


  1. As I said, the recipe does not sear the pork chops. Instead, it relies on trimming away a portion of the chops that will not be eaten and searing only those trimmings. Next time, I will sear the pork on one side for both presentation and flavor. To prevent cupping, I will make small release cuts, something Chris Kimball didn’t try.
  2. In step 10, reducing the liquid to 1 cup doesn’t quite do far enough. I suggest extending the reducing time 8 or 9 minutes; reducing to 3/4-cup.
  3. When shopping, Chris Kimball suggests looking for chops with a small eye and lots of marbling; perfect for braising. Avoid excessively lean pork chops, which will dry out even when braised.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $14.50.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Finish time 7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

Salt and pepper
4 bone-in pork blade chops, 1″ thick (2-1/2 to 3 pounds)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 onions
5 sprigs fresh thyme plus 1/4 teaspoon minced
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1/2″ long piece ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup ruby port
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh parsley

  1. Cut your onions in half, then slice them thin. Peel your 2 garlic cloves and smash them. Peel and cut off 1/2″ piece of fresh ginger; then crushed to release more flavor.
  2. Add 1-1/2 quarts cold water (6 cups) to Dutch oven and whisk in 3 tablespoons salt until dissolved. Add pork to brining liquid, cover, and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Remove pork from brining liquid and dry the chops using paper towels. Trim away and reserve the meat, fat and any cartilage that is on the opposite side of the rib bones. Cut the trimmings into 1″ long pieces. Discard brine, rinse and dry your Dutch oven.
  4. Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in Dutch oven over medium-high burner until it begins to shimmer. Brown pork trimmings on all sides for 7 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, set an oven rack to the lower-middle position of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees.
  5. Reduce burner to medium. Add sliced onions, thyme sprigs, garlic cloves, bay leaves, smashed ginger, and ground allspice. Cook for 7 minutes until the onions become golden brown; stir occasionally.
  6. Add wine, port, and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar to Dutch oven. Reduce for 7 minutes until it becomes slightly syrupy. Add 1 cup of chicken broth, and work the onions/pork scraps to evenly cover the bottom of the pan. Bring up to a simmer; 2 minutes. Lay the pork chops on top of onions/pork scraps.
  7. Cover the Dutch oven, and place on lower-middle oven rack. Bake in 275-degrees oven for 1-1/2 hours until meat is tender.
  8. Remove pot from oven and let chops rest for 30 minutes; still in covered pot. Place pork chops on serving platter and loosely tent using aluminum foil.
  9. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Strain the braising liquid, and fish out pork scraps and add to serving platter to rest with the pork. Use a rubber spatula to press out all the liquid, and discard the remaining solids. Pour braising liquid into a fat separator and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  10. Wipe out Dutch oven using paper towels. Pour braising liquid from fat separator directly into Dutch oven. Reduce liquid over medium-high burner for 7 minutes; until it measures just under 1 cup. Meanwhile mince your parsley and remaining thyme.
  11. Remove pot from heat, and whisk in butter, minced thyme, and a final 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.
  12. Place pork on four individual serving plates. Pour sauce over chops, sprinkle with minced parsley.

Happy New Year 2012

January 1, 2012

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year, and thank you all for your past support and suggestions. 2011 was a fine year, filled with great food and lots of travel. I hope 2012 will be even better. My goal for 2012 will be substantially different that my first two years. Hopefully, the changes will usher in more breadth and introduce my family to new foods that they would otherwise never try.

Welcoming in the New Year at midnight

In 2012, my goal is to make every new recipe that Cook’s Illustrated publishes this year, working through each issue of the magazine in its entirety. No exceptions; no matter how sure I am that nobody in my family will like the recipe. Of course, I will continue to cook additional recipes that Chris Kimball has published in past years; from Cook’s County and America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). Probably some recipes from other sources too.

I have a “bonus” goal this year. I want to prepare a series of articles that fully explain the process of baking bread, in language my 10-year-old son can fully understand and appreciate. Nico asked Santa for a book on baking bread. Though Santa did bring the best book could find, much of the terminology and language is beyond his comprehension. I hope that these articles will continue to foster his love of good food and promote his junior baking skills. One of the greatest lessons a baker must learn is patience; a lesson that will serve him well in life.

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