Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas salad and chowder

My sister-in-law is planning to serve a crisp Romaine salad and a chowder that includes giant prawns, scallops and clams, and asked if I had a recipe for a good Caesar dressing and a nice chowder. Here were my recipes from the files, and I thought you might like to try them as well.

What are you fixing for Christmas dinner this year? I'd love it if you'd include your menu in a comment below, or send me an email.

Caesar dressing recipe
from Sallie Y. Williams' "The Complete Book of Sauces":

½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
6 anchovy fillets, rinsed, dried, smashed and chopped finely
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large egg, soft-boiled for 1 minute
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For a rustic vinaigrette, put all the ingredients in a jar and shake until well mixed. For a more creamy dressing, put all ingredients but the Parmesan in a food processor or blender and mix until smooth. Add the cheese and stir.

If I'm not lazy, I rub the salad bowl with a clove of garlic for extra flavor. If I'm pressed for time, I use garlic salt in place of the salt. Also, since I know where my egg has come from and I wash it before using, I skip the soft-boiled step. (I think the lemon juice "cooks" the egg.)

Seafood Chowder
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a first

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 sprigs fresh summer savory or thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 teaspoon)
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 pound Yukon Gold, white or rose potatoes (not russet), peeled and diced in 1/2-inch chunks
1 1/4 cups fish or chicken stock, or clam juice
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound of the following: mixed shellfish or skinless haddock or cod fillets, totally deboned
1/3 cup heavy cream (or half and half, or milk, if a lighter soup is desired)

For garnish
1 ounce lean bacon bits or lardons
2 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh chives

Heat a 2-quart heavy pot to medium hot. Add oil, onions, savory or thyme, and bay leaves to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, until the onions are softened but not browned.
Add the potatoes and stock. If the stock doesn’t cover the potatoes, add just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil over higher heat, cover, and cook the potatoes vigorously for 5-10 minutes, until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center. If the stock hasn’t thickened lightly, smash a few of the potato chunks against the side of the pot and cook for a minute or two longer. Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper (you will want to almost overseason the chowder at this point to avoid having to stir it much once the fish is added). Add the seafood or fish fillets and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish/seafood will finish cooking during this time).
Gently stir in the cream and taste for salt and pepper. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit for up to an hour at room temperature, allowing the flavors to meld. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. 
Warm the bacon or lardons in a low oven (200 °F) for a few minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to mound the chunks of fish and/or seafood, the onions, and potatoes in the center of large soup plates or shallow bowls, and ladle the creamy broth around. Scatter the bacon over the individual servings and finish each with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and minced chives.