I have to go in with a plan. Nothing rigid, but definitely an outline. I do a little research on the area. I grab a map, because I am totally obsessed with maps—always have been. I make a list of attractions, areas, and destinations for my trip that I must visit (especially if it'll be my first time there). I don't make a timeline, or even a certain day that each thing has to be done, but I do try to map things out and get an idea of what would make sense. That's what I consider my "planner" side.
Once I arrive, I take it all in. I ask locals for recommendations. I walk around and look for interesting places. I try to get a feel of the area. I go back and look at my outline, and plug-in the new additions. THEN, I map out a loose plan, give myself plenty of time, and just go. That's what I consider my spontaneous side.
My recent trip to Seattle (first time!) was no different. I went in with a clear goal that I was going to visit the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and see the ferris wheel at the waterfront. Three destinations may not seem like that lofty of a goal, but I was only there for a few days, with the thing that brought me there in the first place, IFBC (International Food Bloggers Conference).
Now, I guess there are a few places in the Pike Place Market district that serve up a tasty chowder. But my destination was the simply named, Pike Place Chowder. I can't tell you how many people I heard talking about it. I didn't really know what to expect beyond the chowder, but I made it my mission to find out.
It was Sunday morning, and the sun had already burned off the morning haze. We'd already strolled the market and asked for directions. As we made our way down the alley, we spotted the sign jutting from the beige wall. They weren't open yet, but we could see loaves of bread being sliced, salads being assembled, and silver baine-marie's of chowder being readied to the tunes of the '90's that spilled from some hidden speakers. We took that time to study the menu and try to decide which chowder to order.
Milagros to pass the time until they opened, which was still about 40 minutes away. Fortunately, Bea found out that even though they didn't open until 11:00 am, that people started lining up at least a half an hour before that. So, like the eager tourists we were, we staked our claim at the front of the line.
Not long after, the line snaked around the front of the building, and hungry bellies filled the seats of the courtyard outside the door. What should have been an almost unbearable anticipation, was made comfortable by the sites, sounds, and laid-back atmosphere. Before we knew it, the walls were being thrown back (seriously, they totally open up the shop - all that's left are column-sized portions of wall), scarce seats were being snagged, and a steaming bowl of Smoked Salmon Chowder was on the table before me.
The camera came out, and few picture were hurriedly snapped. All I wanted to do was cut my spoon through the chowder and unearth some smoky chunks of salmon, some tender cubes of potato, and some...wait, what's that...little salty bursts on my tongue—CAPERS! I couldn't get enough. Literally. I wanted a bigger bowl. I wanted a few more slices of sourdough to submerge. But alas, if you don't order everything you want on the first go-round, the line without end assures that you're out of luck for the time being.
So, I browsed the internet a bit, tried to see if there were any copycat recipes already floating around that I could base my recipe on. It was then that I discovered (right from the Pike Place Chowder website) that their recipe for Smoked Salmon Chowder was included in the just-realeased A Taste of Washington cookbook. It's just my luck that the author happened to be selling and signing copies right before IFBC officially started...and I missed it. Therefore, I headed to Amazon, placed my order, and waited impatiently for it to arrive.
Once the book arrived, I didn't read it like a novel (my usual habit), instead I went directly to the index to find the recipe. Now, it may seem strange to take a recipe directly from the source and then alter it a bit, but that's what I did. I didn't change any of the ingredients themselves, only the amounts listed (because sometimes recipes can get lost a bit in translation from big batch to small batch, and I thought that happened). What I wound up with brought tears to my eyes. If I closed my eyes when lifting the spoon to my mouth and taking a bite, I was right back on Post Alley.
Smoked Salmon Chowder
Make the best smoked salmon chowder ever (inspired by Pike Place Chowder in Seattle) in your own kitchen.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Keywords: simmer soup/stew nut-free soy-free dairy salmon potatoes
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
- 12 ounces baby red potatoes, scrubbed
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 of a large yellow onion, small dice (heaping cup)
- 2 stalks celery, small dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups water
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups half-and-half
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1" chunks and softened
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons drained capers, rinsed
- 1 pound hot-smoked salmon
- salt (optional and as needed)
- freshly ground black pepper
- hot sauce
- sourdough or crusty bread
Steam or boil the scrubbed potatoes until they are just barely tender. Drain (if boiling), then set on aside on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. When they are cool enough to handle, dice them.
In the meantime, heat 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of the butter over medium in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onions and celery and cook until they are translucent, ~5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and black pepper; cook for 1 more minute.
Add the remaining 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) of butter to the pot. Once it has melted, sprinkle the flour over, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated. Let it cook for 1 minute to get rid of the floury taste.
Add the tomato paste, water, and reserved potatoes to the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Stir in the half-and-half, cream cheese, capers, and smoked salmon. Let it heat slowly until it is almost simmering, then turn off the heat. Taste first, then add salt as needed (it may not need any - mine did NOT. It really depends on the saltiness of your capers and salmon).
Serve while hot with bread, passing the black pepper and hot sauce for people to add, if they like. You can also cool the soup down, then refrigerate. Gently bring it back to just a simmer (don't let it boil hard) for a few minutes before serving.
If your smoked salmon was canned (only use really good, high quality stuff if so), add the salmon flavored water around it to the pot, as well.
-inspired by and adapted from Pike Place Chowder in Seattle (Chef/Owner Larry Mellum) via A Taste of Washington by Michele Morris