Monday, January 10, 2011

Playing with Pollack

And that's the fish, not the artist.

I've been meaning to make fish chowder for some time now. I haven't gotten around to doing so. The reason is quite simple. The fish was in "the other" freezer. We've got two freezers. One that gets used regularly and one that does not. And the fish was in the freezer that does not.

So, despite the fact that I knew the fish was in there, because I saw it every time I opened the door to grab walnuts for my oatmeal, or herbs for my stews, or chocolate for baking, when it came time to make a meal for the family, I always opened the primary freezer. The one where we keep the big stuff. Chunks of dead cow, ground up turkeys, chicken breasts and thighs and drumsticks. Bags and bags and bags of tart pie cherries and rhubarb and homemade stock and the ice cubes. The vegetables. Basically, everything for meals as opposed to the frills for fun. Thus, pollack was never on my mind when it actually came time to cook.

Why the pollack was in "the other" freezer is a mystery that I am unlikely to unravel before my timely demise some sixty-one years hence. (No, I do not know when I will die. I'm just figuring 90 is a good age to go). However, that is where it was. Forgotten. Forsaken. Abandoned. Perhaps an eternal resting place next to the herbs.

So, I decided that I had to take drastic measures. And I did what I always do when drastic measures are necessary. I made a list. I clipped it to the refrigerator door. It's small. The writing so tiny no one but me is likely to pay attention and some are likely to be unable to decipher. And that's okay with me. It's the list I created for no one but myself.

And what might this list contain?

The meals I intend to make in the near future because a) I'm sick of seeing the ingredients on the pantry shelves, b) I'm sick of seeing the ingredients in "the other" freezer one or two mornings a week, c) someone else moved something from the primary freezer to the refrigerator and it needs to be cooked soon, let it go bad, and of the other three people living here, one is in too much pain to do much cooking and the other two never cook for more than themselves. Thus, it falls to me to make family meals. I don't mind. Really. I enjoy cooking.

Being faced with pollack on a regular basis, I wrote it on my list and determined to make it. Thus, when I placed in charge of feeding a hungry child after church yesterday, I surveyed the fellow diners on their preferences and fish chowder it was, narrowly beating out risotto, and far surpassing split pea and ham, because of the three options presented, split pea and ham was immediately forgotten.

Having never make fish chowder before, I delved into the depths of childhood memories and tried to replicate the flavors from a bowl of white liquid that my mother set in front of me in earlier years, and which proved to contain more white stuff (in the form of fish and potato chunks) and corn in its murky depths.

Here's what I came up with:

1/4 lb bacon
1 medium onion, diced
8 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups frozen corn
2 cubes chicken bouillon dissolved in 2 cups chicken broth
4 cups milk
1 lb pollack, cut into chunks

Place the milk in a large saucepan. Heat over medium and stir occasionally. Adjust heat as necessary to keep the milk from foaming. Continue heating the milk, stirring occasionally, until you are ready to add it to the rest of the ingredients. The idea is to reduce it to 3/4 or 1/2 the original volume.

Chop the bacon, (This is easy to do if it's frozen. If not, use kitchen shears to cut it up) and cook in a large stock pot over medium high heat until crisp. Scoop the bacon out of the pot and reserve, leaving the bacon fat in the bottom of the pan.

Lower the heat to medium. Add the onion to the bacon fat and cook until softened.

Add the chicken bouillon/stock mix, potatoes, and corn. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the fish and milk. I had 3 cups of milk left after all that heat and stirring. Next time, I'll start the milk earlier and see if I can reduce it down to 2 cups.

Simmer until the fish is cooked through and you are ready to serve. I think I turned the heat down to low and ignored it for 30 minutes. I had a hungry kid to entertain.

Salt and pepper to taste. (Normally, this is something I would do myself, but people around here are so picky--it's never salty enough for 2 of them and always too salty for 1, always too spicy for 2 of them and too mild for another, and I'd rather not hear the complaints).

Feed to small children and adults alike. It has a lot of potato and a lot of corn. But I like it that way.

I finished yesterday with homemade tapioca pudding. I told the hungry kid it was fish egg pudding. She just rolled her eyes and went back to reading. Sometimes it seems like they're growing up fast.

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