On rainy spring days, I crave salmon chowder. Chowder is perfect for this time of year, because it’s lighter than a winter stew but still super comforting. Plus, seafood and potatoes are always winners in my book. The creamy broth, the starchy potatoes, the satisfying fish… hard to beat!
I love a classic bowl of clam chowder when I’m on the Oregon Coast. (May I suggest the legendary chowder at Gracie’s Sea Hag in Depoe Bay?) But good fresh clams are a little harder to get inland, so I swap salmon for the clams. Because it’s cooked over medium-low, the salmon is hard to overcook, and this recipe turns out perfect every time. Many thanks to the fabulous cooks over at Epicurious, whose recipe I adapted. (I’m just not into bacon in my chowder. Is that weird?)
This chowder is crazy-delicious, but I was careful to add ingredients that complement the salmon without overpowering it. Here we go: Wine in all soups is non-negotiable for the great flavor it adds, and clam juice is to chowder as beef or chicken broth is to stew. A mix of cream and whole milk strikes a perfect balance – creamy, but not too thick.
Bay leaf and garlic deepen the savory flavors, while leeks and corn round out the usual suspects of onion and potatoes. Red pepper flakes, dill and lemon brighten up the dish.
The best part about making this chowder? After you remove the skin and bones from the salmon, you can plop the whole thing in the soup pot, no chopping required! The fish will begin to break apart as it cooks, signaling that it’s ready to be stuffed in your face by the ladle-ful.
Eat this chowder with crusty bread, a beer or the rest of the white wine you used for the recipe (if there’s any left, that is!).
Ultimate Salmon Chowder
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 leeks, cleaned, dark green tops removed and remaining stalks roughly chopped
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1 bay leaf, dried
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 8 ounces clam juice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
- 1 pound salmon, bones and skin removed
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Place potatoes in large stockpot and cover with cool water. Boil until just fork-tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Melt butter in same pot over medium. Add onion and pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.
- Add garlic and leeks and cook 1-2 more minutes, until garlic is fragrant.
- Add bay leaf red pepper and all liquids and bring to a bare boil. Reduce to medium.
- Add potatoes and corn and simmer about 10 minutes, until chowder is thick.
- Taste the chowder and add salt and pepper to your liking.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Add salmon and stir, cooking just until it starts breaking into bite-sized pieces.
- Stir in lemon juice and remove bay leaves.
- Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish with fresh dill.