My friend, Mary Beth, emailed me this morning to ask for ideas for her leftover Tilapia. At first, I couldn't think of anything. My mind was completely blank. My first response was that I just usually eat leftover fish warmed up for lunch just as it is. Then my brain suddenly turned on and I started a list of suggestions from fish tacos, to fish cakes (like crab cakes), to something like the recent Fiddle Tuna Fish Salad recipe, or chopped up fish used as a filling for baked mushrooms. After that my mind when to soup and I started to list a number of soups from a spicy tomato Cioppino-style fish soup to a Thai coconut curry fish soup. After my mind kept thinking of one thing after another I googled "what do to with leftover fish" and found this blog that had lots of other fun ideas and links. http://premeditatedleftovers.com/recipes-cooking-tips/recipes-ideas-to-use-up-leftover-fish/ I can't wait to try the Kenyan Rustic Tomato and Coconut Fish Soup
Clearly I'm like the pig in the book If you Give A Pig a Pancake whose mind lets one spark lead to action so as soon as I finished the email I thought to myself: "I have leftover salmon from dinner last night. Why I don't I make salmon chowder myself." The thing that is great about chowder is if you have the basic ingredients of onion, potatoes and milk you can really go any direction with it. You could do a bacon corn chowder with salmon, or more herbs and vegetables. There are multiple variations and seasonings. Of all the versions I've made in the past, the one I made today I love the most. Adding the fresh tomatoes is the key to why this version is particularly good. And I realize it has three different kinds of heat in it: hot sauce, black pepper and red pepper flakes but they each contribute and different kind of spice and I like the layers of flavor.
Because my entire family loves salmon I cook at at least once every two weeks. I always make an entire side of fish because my girls love the leftovers in their lunch. I always explain my technique for cooking fish when I teach cooking classes but I don't think I've ever done a post yet about it on my blog. Basically the secret is high heat. Low heat or moderate heat dries out the fish. So no matter if you decide to grill it, sear it in a pan, sear it on a flat-top or broil it in the oven, HIGH HEAT is the secret and key to the best and moistest fish you'll ever make. Put a little oil on the fish, then season it with kosher salt and then cook it in a dry pan over high heat. You'll thank me. (My dear friend, Cynthia Spivey, actually wrote a post on her wonderful food blog on my fish technique after they brought home tons of fresh fish.)
99% of the time that I make fish chowder I'm using fish that I've already cooked the night before. It's one of my "go to" things to do with leftovers. But clearly you can put the raw fish directly in the soup if you don't have leftovers and it will cook. However, it will have more flavor if you sear it first. Also, because this is a leftover fish you can use any amount that you have leftover. Sometimes I've had only three pieces of fish leftover and sometimes I've had as many as seven pieces. (I tend to make between 12 and 24 pieces whenever I cook salmon. I have a large extended family and if I'm cooking I might as well cook for everyone and they can just pick it up "to go.") Today I had five pieces leftover that were each about 4 ounces. So just a little over a pound of salmon.
I like soups with a thinner broth so I use whole milk instead of heavy cream and I do not make a roux. You are more than welcome to make a simple roux of flour and butter if you want to make this thicker, but I prefer it exactly the way it is below because I think the flavor is just right.
make this in the largest pot you have because the onions caramelize better in a larger pot
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced (click here for technique on how to dice and onion)
3 stalks of celery, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 pound of mushrooms, sliced (optional)
kosher salt to sprinkle vegetables as they cook
3 quarts Whole Milk (or milk of your choice, coconut milk can be substituted for those allergic to dairy)
1 tablespoon of kosher salt (this may seem like a lot of salt but the potatoes need salt. You can start with 1 tablespoon and then add more to taste if you wish. But you need to add the salt BEFORE you put the potatoes in in order for them to absorb the salt flavor. Also remember that kosher salt is LESS salty that table salt. If you are using table salt use a little less.)
1 pound of fingerling potatoes, roughly chopped (or any potato you like)
1 pound of salmon, cooked and crumbled into large chunks (see note above about using whatever you have leftover. It could be a pound in a half or it could be less.)
2 cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half
Crystal Hot Sauce to taste, (I'd recommend a minimum of six shakes of hot sauce. You can use your favorite hot sauce.)
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper flakes, (or more to taste)
Fresh ground Black Pepper
three springs of Fresh Dill, remove fronds from stem, optional
leaves of three sprigs of Fresh thyme, optional
In the largest stock pot or soup pot you have, sauté the onions in olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook for about five minutes before you had the other vegetables. Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery and mushrooms and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook until the mushrooms begin to release some of their moisture and cook down to about half their size.
Add the milk, 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt (table salt is saltier than kosher salt, so if you use that than use only 1 tablespoon.) Then add the potatoes. Once you add the milk you need to be careful that it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan so keep the heat on medium low and stir fairly often being sure to cover the entire bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. After you cook the potatoes for about five minutes, add the salmon.
Then add the tomatoes, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, black pepper, fresh dill and fresh thyme. Continuing to stir regularly, cook until potatoes are cooked through, about ten minutes more.
Garnish with fresh dill if you feel like being fancy.