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It is getting cold out and time to break out the soup kettle. I live for homemade soup. Nothing comforts like a hot, creamy sea food chowder. My secret to a good chowder base: Hondashi Soup Base. It is a powder made from Bonito, a dried fish flake used in Japanese soup-making.
Follow the directions, if you have them in English. It doesn't have any salt in it, so you will have to season it well. Hondashi adds a depth of flavor to chowder. I am always asked, "Hmm...what IS that flavor?" Well, don't tell anyone, but it's the hondashi.
For exquisite seafood chowder, select several kinds of shell fish and fish. Clams, oysters, canned or fresh, shrimp, scallops....it really matters only if you are on a budget. Save all the liquids from the canned stuff. I add a good hearty meaty white fish, that won't fall apart in the soup.
Here is what I use to make a hearty seafood chowder:
4 Tbsp Hondashi to 2 quarts of water, mix and let it simmer on low while you do everything else. Add a pinch of salt to the soup base.
1 onion, large roughly cut
3 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, cut into chunks
4 rashers of bacon, fried, crumbled and reserve the drippings.
5 red potatoes (not russets) not peeled, diced
2 Tablespoons of white flour
1 package of frozen corn
parsley and dill weed
Assorted fish and seafood.
(oysters, clams, mussels, crab or lobster meat, fresh white fish cut into chunks, at least 2 lbs.)
salt and pepper, to taste.
1 quart of heavy cream.
...supplemented with a loaf of hot crusty sour dough bread.
First, dice 3 stalks of celery and a very large yellow onion and 2 cloves of garlic.
Cook off 4 rashers of bacon and saute the chopped veggies in the fat. Or you can skip the bacon and use butter. Sometimes I add chopped leftover ham to the soup in addition to all the other goodies I put in.
After sauteeing onions, celery and garlic, add carrots, potatoes and corn. Saute for a few minutes more, seasoning with salt and pepper, and a couple of dashes of nutmeg, too, if you like. Sprinkle the flour into the vegetable mix and let it begin to thicken as a roux. Pour everything into the pot of simmering hondashi stock. Stir til the flour is dissolved and there are no flour lumps.
Begin layering the clams and oysters in, followed by scallops and shrimp, and then lastly by the white fish. Do this in increments of 5 minutes. I prefer the cheaper canned oysters and clams, for convenience' sake, as well as price.
When things look almost cooked through, add the cream, scallions, dill weed and parsley. Sometimes, just to brighten things up, before I add the cream, I add the zest and juice of one lemon.
Serve with the bread and crumbled bacon. Swig a hot mug of spiced cider and curl up with a good book and your favorite music.