I admit, since I last wrote, life has been busy and my progress on the Duck Challenge has slowed. But I assure you that my time has been put to good use… mainly, in the kitchen.
If you’re vegan or a real vegetarian (meaning, you don’t eat critters from the sea), you can stop reading now because I’m going to relay what I think is a worthwhile recipe for Seafood Chowder. For meat-eaters and terrible vegetarians (like myself), this is a must-try!
(Image from tasteofhome.com)
This all began Friday, when I got it in my head that I needed to make seafood chowder. For those who don’t know me very well, I’m a picky eater whose diet is, for the most part, dictated by cravings—savory, salty, sweet, creamy… the list goes on. Unfortunately, this isn’t helped by the fact that I work down the street from a Whole Foods, which I pass everyday to and from my office. So it was painfully easy for me to make a grossly expensive pit stop on the way home from work to pick up an array of overpriced seafood, as recommended by the highly-rated recipe I found on AllRecipes.com. While shopping, I made my own tweaks to the ingredient list based on user reviews and my own taste, and ended up with this:
(By the way, these ingredients were enough to feed 4-6 as a 1-course meal)
- ½ lb. Cod (skin removed and cut in 1” chunks or strips)
- ½ lb. Haddock (skin removed and cut in 1” chunks or strips)
- 1 lb. uncooked, shelled shrimp (peeled and cleaned)
- 1 can smoked oysters and/or
- 1 can smoked mussels
- Imitation Crab Meat (chunks, not sticks)
- 1 can corn (16 oz)
- 5 cups potatoes, diced
- 1 med or large onion, chopped
- ¼-1/3 cup chopped parsley
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups whole milk
- ½ can of evaporated milk
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 4 tbsp. butter
- Sea Salt, to taste
- Fresh black pepper, to taste
- ½ tbsp. onion powder
- ½ tbsp. garlic powder
- ½ tbsp. curry powder
- Olive oil
You’ll need a large pot or a Dutch oven, which is what I used. Just to make life easier, I recommend prepping the onion, potatoes, shrimp, and parsley ahead of time—peeling and cleaning shelled shrimp can take fooooorever.
Smoked oysters and mussels were ingredients I added based on user reviews—the original recipe called for bacon. Being a vegetarian, I couldn’t use bacon, but found that the smoked flavor of the oysters and mussels gave the chowder a nice flavor that resembled a smoked bacon. So, if you like smoked foods, this is a great replacement.
1. Coat the bottom of the pot or Dutch oven with olive oil and heat on a lower setting. Once heated, sauté the onions until they are tender. Next, add the potatoes and sauté a couple minutes before adding 2 cups of water. Raise heat, and let water boil gently until potatoes begin to soften (10+ minutes), stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, prepare your fish—peel off skin and cut into 1” chunks or strips.
While cutting your fish, keep your pieces thin. The pieces will flake and break apart in your chowder, which will give the ‘broth’ a good texture. My reason for recommending this over using thicker chunks that won’t break apart is as follows: there are certain worms found specifically in Cod and Haddock—the most common ones are called Cod Worms. They are small and a white or pinkish color, very similar to the color of the fish. Even when you buy at the “top-notch” markets, like Whole Foods, there is still a considerable chance that your fillet will contain worms. I recommend cutting the fish in thinner chunks, or strips, so that you have a higher chance of spotting worms. It is true that if worms go overlooked and end up in your soup, the heat will kill them and most times they will be completely harmless. However, there is a small chance that eggs may latch onto your intestinal lining as the foods passes through… in which case, you will have problems.
I bought my Cod at Whole Foods and spent about $8 on ½ a pound. After finding a live Cod worm in one chunk and a dead one in another, my $8 went into a heavy-duty Ziplock bag and right into the trash. I proceeded to have a panic attack, and almost destroyed my chunks of Haddock as I searched for other worms. Conveniently, I live with a photographer who has powerful lights on hand, and after reading on the internet that worms can be spotted when held to up a powerful light, I inspected each piece meticulously. Luckily, no worms, though it did take me about 15 minutes to pull myself together… it’s really not fun to find parasites in the food you almost ate—makes you think twice.
So, it should be noted that my chowder was missing the ½ pound of Cod I listed in the ingredients.
3. Once potatoes begin to soften, add all your fish—Cod, Haddock, shrimp, smoked oysters, smoked mussels, and imitation crab. Also add corn, parsley, and butter (cut into little chunks and distribute evenly across the mix). Fold mixture a couple times to mix everything well, and once the butter has melted, add the additional 2 cups of water. Also add spices. Bring to a gentle boil.
4. Meanwhile, dissolve 2 tbsp of flour in 4 cups of whole milk—add to the chowder with a ½ can of evaporated milk, and make sure to stir often so everything heats evenly. Once the milk begins to ‘breath’ (or looks like it’s trying to bubble), give it a taste to see if you need any more spices. Otherwise, your chowder is ready—Bon appetit!
If anyone has any tweaks, suggestions, or reviews, be sure to leave a comment! Like any recipe, this is just to get you started. ☺
So I’ve been a bit lazy this weekend. Seeing as to how I was about 75% done last time I wrote, I expected this entry to be a ‘declaration of victory,’ but that will need to come later. I blame it on the weather—Boston has been unbearably cold this weekend, with temperatures dropping to the single digits (not the mention the windshield). When the dead of the winter sets in, as it finally seems to have done, I find it all the more difficult to focus—for the most part, I’d rather be bundled under micro-fleece blankets with some tea and a movie, or in the kitchen tending to cookies in a warm oven (which I’m sure my housemates wouldn’t object to).
Also an incredible distraction was the discovery that spider mites had re-infested my two trumpet flower plants, handed down to me from my Nonno. I’d first noticed the mites in the fall, shortly after I’d brought them inside for the winter. After weeks of spraying and snapping off leaves, I realized that maybe the living room (where the plants were vacationing) needed to be sprayed—I’d read that spider mites like dusty areas, and it happened to be that my apartment was recently renovated, so there was a lot of leftover construction dust and wood shavings that had fallen unnoticed in the grooves of the sliding glass door to the porch. So I cleaned meticulously and sprayed roach killer along the dustiest areas of the room, and once again sprayed and trimmed my plant.
That seemed to work, and much to my delight, the plants were mite-free for a couple months… until today I noticed both plants were re-infested (this had to have happened over night, because I check those plants everyday). So, I basically spent my day re-cleaning the living room, spraying a recommended mixture of dish soap and water (because apparently spider mites are very susceptible to this plant-friendly combination), and snapping off every single leaf of my two precious plants—it was sad. But like most plants, they are resilient and will recover in no time. Until I can get them outside again, I just need to make sure the spider mites have no leaves to nest under.
So, that all said, here’s what I managed to accomplish this weekend:
Hopefully I’ll have plenty of energy when I get home from work tomorrow to finish up the background and fix a couple things that are bothering me (like the mama duck’s footprints, which aren’t consistently sized—a simple fix, but tedious nonetheless). Also, if I’m serious about keeping a schedule, I’ve got to invest in some more colored pencils otherwise this Duck Challenge thing is going to hit a snag—I guess covering 19”x24” paper with just colored pencil uses a lot of lead or something. :-p
I would have never thought myself to be much of a blogger (and perhaps, in the long run, I won’t be), but I figured blogging about my illustration progress might just be the solution to my counterproductive habit of extending the deadlines I’ve set for myself (meaning, maybe this will help me focus and actually get something done).
For those not familiar with this particular project, I’m attempting to complete 26 hand-drawn 19″x24″ illustrations using only pen and colored pencil as my medium (…!). I began this project a little over a year ago, quite naively I might add, thinking that the many years I’ve had to perfect my multi-tasking skills would help me pump out everything in six months—unfortunately, reality had a different idea of how things would go. Between a full time job, side gigs, and a healthy variety of conflicting interests (writing, composing, recording music, cooking, graphic design, etc. etc.), my “I’ll have this one done by the end of the week” quickly turned into “I’ll have this done by the end of the month.” And, of course, before I knew it, the end of the month had arrived and I’d barely added a stroke to my canvas.
So, a year later, a light bulb went off and I thought it might be fun to ‘track’ my progress. I’m calling this phase of my experiment “The Duck Challenge.” For the Duck Challenge, my goal is to have my 4 main duck illustrations completed by March 1. It seems that if I can buckle myself down for at least 2 days of the week from now until March, I might have an accomplishment on my hands.
Today was the kick-off of my Duck Challenge. Here’s what I started with:
A couple solid hours seemed to get the majority of the color down (I’d done all the pen work over the spring, so that allowed me to jump right into coloring, which is usually step 3 for me), and I’d say I’m pretty pleased. I certainly could have worked a bit longer, but Boston got hit with some messy snow today and after an 8 am class in the middle of the downfall, followed by 8 hours of work, followed by errands in the slush, I’m just about ready for sake and a movie. Despicable Me, anyone?