Sunday, March 25, 2012

Red Fish Chowder

I have big dark circles under my eyes and that's a sign my kidneys need support so it is time to start sleeping more and eating more soup. I'm prone to hollowing under the eyes and the subsequent dark circles. As a child I would go to my grandparent's house on the weekends and my grandfather would often take one look at me and order me to "Eat Soup!" That's because my kidneys get deficient very easily and soup is one of the best ways to rehydrate them - especially if you aren't sleeping enough. So I eat a lot of soup and I love it. I know everyone is all pumped up about drinking lots of water, but it doesn't actually do much good if you can't hold onto it. Soup has lots of minerals from the bones or root vegetables that help you retain the liquid and is just amazing for hydration. All cultures in the world have soup as one of their most important foods for healing. In fact, the Chinese would often have soup (including the soupy Rice Congee) three times a day!

I got a wonderful piece of Rockfish on sale at the market and decided to make a Fish Chowder with tomatoes. I wanted a substantial and hearty soup, not just broth. When I am making a fish based soup, I look for the least expensive (wild) fresh white fish at my local market and I like using fresh tomatoes, although canned Italian ones will do in a pinch. It is also important to use a white wine that is really drinkable as that flavor comes through. When I remember, I buy fish bones and make a good stock and freeze it for future use, but I haven't done that for a while so I relied instead on canned clam broth and canned clams for the stock. If I make this soup for company, I will buy fresh clams and steam them with wine, use the clams in the soup and I will strain the broth to use in the soup. I am allergic to shrimp, crab and lobster and so many of the Fish Soups or Bouillabaisse have shrimp stock as part of their base, so I have to make this kind of soup for myself at home. Of course, you can add shrimp, scallops, squid, or mussels if you want. This is a really delightful soup based on a combination of Zuppa Di Pesce and Manhattan Clam Chowder. I like to use carrots and celery along with garlic, onion and potatoes. And, it is definitely hearty enough to stand up by itself as the main course. Serve with lots of crusty French bread. Try this soup - your kidneys will thank you!

Red Fish Chowder

2 pieces of thick sliced bacon, cut into small pieces (can also use Pancetta)
2 - 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (if using lean bacon)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots trimmed and peeled and cut into a dice
2 celery stalks, tops and bottom trimmed and diced
1 cup white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
8 plum tomatoes peeled (put in boiling water for 4 minutes first) and chopped
1 15 oz can or bottle of Clam Broth
2 6.5 oz cans Chopped Clams in Clam Juice (I used the Snow brand by Bumblebee)
1 pound Fish (I used Rockfish)
1 Bay Leaf
1 teaspoon Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional: Fresh Italian Parsley for garnish
and up to 1 teaspoon dried Red Chili flakes if you like the soup spicy

In a large pot, put in bacon and cook until nearly browned. If there is not enough fat to equal about 3 Tablespoons, add in Olive Oil. Put in onions and cook until translucent. Then add in garlic, carrots and celery and cook until carrots are softened. Put in tomatoes and cook until they break down into a sauce. Then add in white wine and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes and add in Clam Broth and canned clams, Bay Leaf and Thyme. Bring back to a boil and put in potatoes. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in fish and continue to cook for and additional 5 minutes - don't overcook the fish or it will get tough. Serve in big bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

Five Element Analysis

Seafood by its very nature is a Water Food so that element is completely covered and the bacon adds more. The tomatoes and wine make sure that the Fire Element is present and is you use the Red Chili flakes, you add even more. The carrots and potatoes bring in the Earth Element and the onions, garlic, Bay Leaf and Thyme contribute the Metal Element. Only the Wood Element needs to be added and serving it with French Bread makes this a balanced meal!

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