Sunday, August 03, 2008

Corn Chowder with Halibut Cheeks and Mussels

Okay, I really haven't been around much, and I apologize for being such a flaky friend and not visiting enough. In my defense, I have been out of town for work, with a spotty-at-best wireless connection (I used the hotel lobby to reply to my comments on Thursday). Also, I have a huge backlog of food and photos to chat about by now, and I'm getting a wee case of The Daunteds. But I think I'm ready to come out from beneath that rock.

Corn is in season, as are some of my favorite seafoods - Dungeness crab, halibut, albacore. New Seasons must be paying attention, because they recently started carrying the most coveted of halibut cuts, the cheek. Frankly, the cheek is the best part of all animals (Hank from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook knows what I'm talking about). I'll prove that later by showing you what I did with the smoked pork cheek from Pig Roast 2008. Oh, it is that good.

As much love as I have for New Seasons (I'm doing that thing where I pound my heart twice with my fist and throw out a sideways peace sign), their mussels can be kind of shitty. Remember how last time I said to be sure and check your shellfish? Well I didn't remember to mention that this is really hard because they bag them in those little mesh bags, then wrap them up all pretty in brown butcher paper so you can't see that no less than 20% of the mussels have broken shells (I counted!), or consist of nothing but broken shells. Why are they selling me broken, empty shells that I can pick up off the beach for free? The fuck.

Anyhoo, we've had a spot of cooler weather up here in good ol' PNW, so I jumped at the chance to make a warm, buttery chowder, this time with fresh corn instead of frozen. Corn chowder is so good with a little seafood in it (remember the coho chowder I made for Black History Month?), especially the sweet, tender cheek of halibut and succulent mussels, both from the northern Pacific.



When you cut corn from the cob (or even after just eating it off), do yourself a favor and save up the cobs in a freezer bag until you have enough to fill a pot, then make corn cob broth by simmering these in some chicken stock for an hour or so. This broth is perfect for chowder and my chicken enchilada soup ("Sopa del Fuego"), and is probably just delicious to use for polenta.

To make this chowder, just make slight adjustments to the recipe from February, subbing fresh corn for frozen, corn cob broth for seafood stock, leaving out the Thai spices and jalapeño, and using cream instead of coconut milk. Add a pinch of saffron. At the very last moment, add the halibut cheek (cut into bite-sized pieces) and mussels, and hit it with some chopped flatleaf parsley. Soup is ready when the mussels are open. Serve with buttermilk biscuits and a clean, citrusy white (we had a Castelvero Piemonte Cortese 2007 - an unassuming, $9 Bianco that is extremely decent for the price and didn't try too hard against the food).



Coming soon: What to do with leftover biscuits...

(Hint:)

42 comments:

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Ah, to live in climates where the notion of soup (other than gazpacho) in summer is not a sure sign of madness!

Nice use of the cheeks there, Heather. Those are Pacific halibut cheeks, which are the big 'uns. And yes, that was a gratuitous "Married with Children" reference.

You have albacore already? Jealous. Ours doesn't arrive for a few weeks...

glamah16 said...

Why are you apologising? It August and most peopel are off anyway. Im craving a good soup even in hot weather. With the air on. You always have a special way with chowders!

cookiecrumb said...

Leftover biscuits???

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

I think you may have just inspired me to cook corn chowder. I love cheeks: they are the best part of the animal. We fight over fish cheeks all the time.

Manggy said...

Hey, it's hard enough finding a hotel with free wireless! (Oh, I hope it was free.) I love mussels, and corn in savory dishes :)

When people are talking about wine though, it's all white noise to me, like the grown-ups in Peanuts cartoons :P

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

You had me up until the mussels. For some reason I just cannot eat them at all! I am sure I could omit them and still be in heaven...might wait until the temp goes below 75 for once though!

Syd said...

I'm sure it's bad bloggie manners to link back to your own blog in comments. But, I posted a sumthin' about fish cheeks this week too.

Heather said...

Hank - I'm this close to making a run to Astoria for a schoolie. Last year I found a guy selling them for $1.50/pound.

Court - I know people are finally taking time off, but some people still blog on vacation! Crazies.

Cookiecrumb - We (maybe intentionally) forgot to halve the recipe.

JS - They are definitely worth fighting over! Corn is so good right now, go for it.

Mark - It was free, or there'd be more cussing. I love mussels too. :)

Judy - It's funny, I don't like oysters at all (I mean at all), but I love mussels. They're kind in between a clam and an oyster, I think.

Syd - Nah, it's totally not bad manners at all. I don't know how I missed your fish face post! And with pigeon and everything! The grisly can of teeth frightens me.

April in CT said...

I wonder why it is when I see a beautiful soup on someones blog I want to swim in it. Odd... (esp. since I can't swim)

I'm trying really hard to have the least amount of waste possible in my kitchen, but being the unimaginative type I've been throwing my corn cobs away all this time. The horror! Thank you for the tip on saving them up for broth AND what types of dishes to use that broth for. :)

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

I just picked up some corn yesterday. Might try this out if I can find some decent looking shelfish...

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

I love, love, love corn chowder, mussels and fish cheeks! We don't get those big, juicy halibut ones, though - only grouper. I just made a corn and crab chowder a few weeks ago and now I feel inadequate. Mussels and cheeks sound sooo much cooler! ;)

Thanks for the corn cob tip. Now, I'll have to fight my husband for them. He likes to put them in the compost bin.

Cathy C said...

Flake all you want as when you come back look at this amazing creation you bring to the peoples - Maybe instead of flaking it should be know as quiet inspiration time. So really take all the time you need ;)
This looks so great and will be great when it cools down..still about 100 here.
Cheers
Cathy
www.wheresmydamnanswer.com

dp said...

Love love love mussels but the boys won't eat them. I won't even mention what hubby says they remind him of! LOL

But I can do the chowder without them. I'll have to stop by new seasons soon to check on the cheeks. I love fish cheeks but never cooked them myself before. Last I was at NS, I saw they had FRESH duck breast!!! And actually, they are pretty good at special ordering stuff. I ordered 5 pounds of sole filets through them once and asked if they could get me herring. And they could.

Emiline said...

We have 24 ears of corn in our fridge, so...this sounds like a good idea.

That sucks that the grocery store keeps selling you shells. I would be angry.

I feel the same way you do about commenting. But then you see Cynthia, Tartelette, Gluten Free Girl, Orangette, C&Z - they're getting successful off of blogs. I know Cynthia and Tartelette work really hard on commenting.

Another rambling comment. I've been on here for hours. Must get off.

canarygirl said...

Would you believe I have *never* had corn chowdah? Gotta fix that. Except, since we have no decent cob corn, I don't know how ta swing it. Maybe I'll just come over to your place. ;)

MrOrph said...

No words. Just, Yum!

Foodycat said...

Yum! I do love mussels - somehow knowing they are gonads doesn't put me off at all.

kittie said...

Great corn chowder! And great tip for the corn cob stock!

I would take all the dead/broken/empty shells back to the supermarket and have a whinge!!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I loved the tip for the corn cob stock! I've yet to try cod or halibut cheeks. Living in the Midwest, our fish options are not quite what they are on the coasts. I mean, they can be, but then you gotta wonder how fresh they are, how many miles they traveled, etc.

Heather said...

April - Well isn't it about time you learned to swim?

Marc - I always thought you weren't supposed to eat shellfish in months that have no 'R', but I guess that's not true anymore? There're nice clams and mussels here, not sure what you can get.

Susan - If the crab hadn't been prohibitively expensive ($30/lb for lump meat), I'da used crab.

Cathy - Does it still count as quiet inspiration time if I'm holed up in the house playing Final Fantasy III on the Nintendo DS?

Darlene - Whoa, fresh duck breast? I've just been getting legs (frozen) at Fubonn - they're only like $3.99/lb. NS is so nice, I get warm fuzzies for them.

Emmy - Save those cobs, girl! You'll thank me come winter, when you need that corny sweet taste of summer.

Nikki - My original recipe calls for frozen corn, and just plain veg or chicken stock. If you use frozen corn, roast it first for a few minutes until it's kinda toasty.

Don - I'm pretty sure those are words.

Foodycat - Heh, I think I forgot that little fun fact, but it doesn't really bother me either.

Kittie - I almost did take them back, but I had too much cookin' to do. Next time I'll just ask them as nicely as I can to be more selective. I really like those meat/seafood guys. :)

Jen - Don't you get them big ol' lunkers out in the MW? Pike have cheeks, doesn't they? ;)

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Looks delicious Heather! Corn chowder is one of my favorites, but you are taking it too all new levels!

Don't feel bad - I still have articles to post from before the wedding! It is really crazy when you cook ALL THE TIME and only post 2 times a week! I so feel ya! Glad you are back though! :)

April in CT said...

You'd think with my hubby being in the Coast Guard I would have learned by now. We'll just blame him..sounds good. *wink, wink*

Brittany said...

That rain we had recently was kind of a blessing wasn't it? My herbs are delighted, 'specially the bay- which is now a tree.

Um, corn chowder with halibut cheecks and mussels?!? Oh sweet lord. (yeah- it sounds SCRIPTURE good)

I want. I will probably need to make that...my husband will thank you profusely.

matt wright said...

anyting soupy with seafood in is awesome in my books - but this is especially so. Great stuff!

Kevin said...

That chowder looks so good! I like the sound of simmering the cobs in stock for more corn flavour.

Leif erik Sundstrom said...

This is good, real good. I've been needing more inspiration for new uses of fresh corn. Every year I just roast it or grill it, straight on the cob. Now mind you, this is a very delicious way to eat the stuff, but innovation is always fun. Just saw a friend grate fresh corn with a cheese grater to make some fresh polenta. It was delicious. Or as our favorite foodie out there would say; "Yumm-O!"
(of course that was sarcasm...sheesh)

Leif
TasteVin.typepad.com

Brooke said...

Damn, and I just had corn on the cob last night. I totally didn't think about saving the cobs for broth. I now hang my head in shame, for the cobs have been banished to the composter, and there's no way I'm digging through to retrieve them (although I was thinking about it for a minute there). I love corn chowder. That looks awesome.

Lo said...

Having just come back from a weekend filled with oodles of roasted corn, this dish is terribly inspiring.

And cheeks... tempting me with cheeks just isn't fair! Having made a pork cheek chili this winter that was extraordinary, I'm a die-hard fan.

Zen Chef said...

I would kill for halibut cheeks!!
I once had it in Hong Kong simply grilled and caramelized over charcoal and served with a soy-grapefuit sauce. Best thing i ever ate!! I would swim in your chowder Voodoolily!!

We Are Never Full said...

fabulous. even in our 90 degree heat, i'm still craving this hot soup.

and cheeks are the best. on anything. think of babies. how bad do you want to bite into a plump, adorable baby cheek?

Heather said...

Jenn - Gah, I always forget that you really do know how it is. Why can't there be a few more hours in a day?

April - I'm surprised he hasn't tossed you in the drink yet! :)

Brittany - I was working outside in most of it, but I do love a warm summer rain.

Matt - Yes, seafood soup/stew is amazing stuff. Worth cooking in summer. :)

Kevs - "Waste not, want not", I always say!

Leif - I love the idea of grating fresh corn for polenta. Hey, what wine would you've chosen for this soup? For just drinking, I usually try to stay under $20.

Brooke - There will be many more cobs to come, my dear. No need to pout! haha

Lo and Behold - A weekend filled with roasted corn? How can I resist making a poop joke? Sigh. I love cheeks, too, and will from this day forward always search for them on every animal.

M. Zen - Did you know that you're one of the few bloggers left whose name I don't know? Le tragedie. You just wanna reach through the computer and squeeze those halibut cheeks, don't you?

Amy - So, so bad. Hey, do you ever see cute baby fawns and wonder how delicious venison veal must be? I'm fucked in the head to admit I do.

Bren@Flanboyant Eats said...

hot soup in august! good for you! not even possible here in Atlanta. I'd melt right with the corn, if corn can even do that!

Nice looking chowder!

Leigh said...

yes yes yes...never seen a recipe using the cheeks before and i'm gonna hunt some down. cant go wrong with mussells in hearty broth.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I've never tried corn broth before. Now I regret having tossed oh so many corn cobs during the past few months. This soup/chowder sounds awesome! Now all I need is to find a place for halibut (or any fish) cheeks :-/ ...lol, I only live in FL...not like that's near the ocean or anything...

Leif Erik Sundstrom said...

Also, forgot to mention...LOVE LOVE LOVE the detailed wine mention. As you know, I'm all about the food an dwine pairings and love to know how people's food was enjoyed with what wine.

you coming to the tasting?
www.TasteVin.typepad.com

Peter G said...

Another discovery ala Voodoolily! Halibut cheeks!...Who knew you could use those as well?....Great chowder Heather and fresh corn is a hard one to beat...

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

That does it. I'm coming over. Now.

Heather said...

Bren - I know, everything's ToPsY tUrVy! But when we get a break from the heat, I run with with it.

Leigh - They really are the best part of every animal. Except maybe a mussel. They don't have cheeks.

Mike - Haha, you might hafta special-order your fish from the intarwebs or something.

Leif - I only said two words that actually described the wine! Everything else was a fancy way of saying it didn't suck. :P

Petah - Apparently cheeks are a thing! They're delicious, so I can see why.

Sketti - Well come on, then!

Norm Schoen said...

I love it when you use your "wine words" : D

Bellini Valli said...

Thanks for the tip about the corn on the cob broth Heather...great idea:D

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peter said...

I'd hit that. It's cooling off a little here, too.