From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Salt cod is seasonally available in the community where I live. It can be purchased November through January, but once the inventory stocked for the holidays is gone, cooks who have come to enjoy this salted treasure are pretty much on their own. I shamefully admit to hoarding salt-dried cod and may be the only cook in my community who buys it in 5 pound lots. While I suspect it is an acquired taste, the Silver Fox and I have come to love several salt cod preparations, and I make it a point to serve them during the holiday season. Our favorite is a dish called brandade du morue which comes from Provence. It is hearty and delicious and an absolutely perfect way to use the flaky and toothsome salt cod. The trouble is, I'm always left with a small portion of unused cod when I make it, so I was delighted when I stumbled on this recipe in a 2010 issue of Fine Cooking magazine. This chowder is a study in simplicity, and were it not for the need to soak the fish for at least a day before serving, it could be on the table in less than an hour. Now, I must warn any of you who have never sampled a dish made with salt cod that it has a unique taste that will carry the dish. Some love it, others don't. This chowder has a thin broth with a consistency like that of an oyster stew, so, if you plan to serve it for dinner, make sure to provide a salad and crisp peasant bread to help extend the meal. Salt pork is another item that can be hard to find outside of large city markets, but blanched bacon can be substituted if needs be. I hope those of you who have a source for salt cod will give this recipe a try. It is simple to prepare and it makes a uniquely flavorful bowl of chowder. Here is how it is made.
Salt Cod and Corn Chowder...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Fine Cooking magazine
8 oz. dried salt cod
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 oz. salt pork, cut into small dice (about 1/2 cup)
1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice (about 1 cup)
1 medium stalk celery, cut into small dice (about 1/2 cup)
2 medium red potatoes, cut into small dice (about 2 cups)
1-1/2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen thawed)
2 (8-oz.) bottles clam juice
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1) One day ahead of serving, rinse salt cod, put it in a large bowl, and cover with cold water. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water several times.
2) Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan set over high heat. Add soaked cod, and simmer gently over low heat until it flakes easily with a fork, about10 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness. Drain and cool. Remove and discard skin, bones, and any spongy ends. Shred cod into pieces.
3) Heat oil in a large (4 to 6 quart) soup or saucepan over medium heat. Add salt pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Add onion, celery, and a pinch of salt to pot and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in potatoes and corn. Add 2 cups water, clam juice, thyme, and bay leaf. Adjust heat as necessary to reach a simmer and cook until potatoes are just tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in salt cod, salt pork, heavy cream, and milk. Heat to a gentle simmer, but don’t boil. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprig, and season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. Yield: 4 to6 servings.
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