Seafood Chowder Deconstruction Project
January 30, 2008

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Seafood_chowder_1 I'd originally intended this to be a pan-seared Steelhead fillet with shiitake mushrooms in a light milk sauce of some sort.  Early in the day, though, word came down that one of my dinner guests did not like mushrooms.  At around the same time, I ran across a recipe for "almond milk" (not real almond milk; really just toasted almonds braised in milk), and I thought that toasted almonds might add a similar woodsy note that I was going for with the shiitakes. 

In a note to the recipe, the authors mention something about clam chowder, and my mind was off racing:  a milk-braised Steelhead fillet as the centerpiece in some kind of deconstructed chowder nouveau.  Well, maybe half-constructed.

The dish, at least in my opinion, succeeded far beyond my original ambition for it.  It may be a little fiddly, but it's nearly technique-free.  The light milk broth is an excellent stand-in for the traditionally heavy chowder base.  Roasted celeriac one-ups potatoes here -- celeriac is definitely an underused foodstuff.  The almonds and nutmeg provide an intriguing earthy backdrop.  I think this was great food, and I may groom it into one of my staples. But then, I'm always inordinately fond of my concept dishes.


  • 1 smallish celeriac
  • 1 leek
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 (additional) cups milk
  • 1 Steelhead fillet, big enough four 4 small servings
  • 10-15 cooked crawfish with body fat
  • 3-4 strips of good quality bacon
  • salt
  • truffle salt
  • pepper
  • cayenne pepper

Celeriac_cubes Mise en place

Peel the celeriac.  (Well, you don't really peel a celeriac as much as cut away the thick, dirty outer skin.)  Cut into small, evenly-sized cubes.  Chop the bacon into lardons.  Chop the leek into thin rings. Chop the fennel into medium-sized pieces about the same size as the celeriac cubes, or slightly smaller.   


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

Break out the Pyrex roasting pan.  Place the celeriac cubes in a pile in the center.  Salt and pepper the cubes.  Drizzle olive oil over the pile, and mix up the pile with your hands.  Spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Roast for 10-15 minutes, stirring and checking every five minutes.  The cubes should be glistening and toothsome.  Put them in a bowl and set them aside.

Saute the almonds in 2 tbsp of butter until they are nicely toasted, being careful not to burn them.  Stir in 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp flour.  Take the pan off of the heat and let it cool off for 1 minute.  Add the 2 cups of milk, stir through, and put back on gentle heat, bringing it to just below boiling.  (Be careful not to let it boil, or it may curdle.)  Then lower the heat.  Add a pinch of cayenne, and pepper and truffle salt to taste.  If you have crawfish with the shells, you can add the shells with the milk.  If you are using frozen crawfish tails with fat on them, as I did -- you can pour the liquid that was at the bottom of the bag after it's defrosted.  If you are lucky enough to be able to easily get fresh or frozen crawfish fat, you can probably just substitute that for butter.  (And if you do try that let me know how it turns out.)

Pour the milk and the cream into a pot large enough to accomodate the steelhead fillets (but small enough that the 4 cups of liquid will submerge them).  Bring the mixture to just below boiling.  Place the steelhead fillets in the pan and cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest fillet reads 135 degrees.

Meanwhile, Saute the bacon lardons.  Remove, retaining 1-2 tbsp of the fat in the pan.  Saute the leeks and the fennel in the bacon fat.  Remove.  Gently reheat the crawfish meat in the bacon fat.

Now you can assemble the dish.  For each serving, put the fillet in the center of a heated, flat-bottomed bowl.  Ladle the milk over it, making sure that you include some of the almonds. Add a portion of the celeriac, bacon, leeks, and crawfish.  Eat immediately.  Serves 4.

Ingredient quality can really make a difference here.  It will taste good no matter what, but finding good quality fish, crawfish, and bacon can really make it stand out.

Allez cuisine!

January 30, 2008 in recipes, soups_stews | Permalink


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This recipe looks like a potato's recipe when you saw it but the greatest thing in this recipe is the milk sauce it gives to the dish the final step to be amazing.

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