Monday, September 19, 2011

Risking the Chowder: the Fennel Experiment

Full Circle: Live the Good Food Life
 I joined a new organic farm-to-table delivery service, Full Circle Farm.  

Today was my first delivery... Peppers, tomatillos, beets, lettuce, kale, fennel, peaches, plums, and nectarines.  

A colorful mix!  

I'd already planned to make clam chowder for dinner, and as I started, I was thinking about what I'd do with some of the veggies with which I'm not very familiar.  An idea occurred to me, and I went to the computer to see if it had been done before.  

When I found the article, Cafe's Clam Chowder Relies on Bacon, Fennel, I decided the idea... including fennel in the chowder... was worth a try.  The author said the fennel 'gives extra character' to the soup.  I hope that's a good thing, and I hope my family doesn't mind me messing with a crowd favorite.  But, what can I say?  I was feeling a little adventurous, happy to be prepping again on my island, and cooking in my huge Vollrath Tribute 16-quart Stockpot, so I was ready to have a little fun.  It's just one pot of chowder, and it's only the start of fall. 
The trimmings... Good for anything?
Just stock or something more?

The next thing I had to do was find out how to prep the fennel.  Searching online again, I found a short and helpful video entitled Knife Skills: How to Prepare Fennel on  As instructed, I trimmed off the stocks and fronds, then sliced the bulb down the center.  
Unlike the small, triangle shaped core in the fennel of the video, the core of this bulb seemed to go almost all the way to the top.  It seemed like I was removing half the vegetable.  But out it came.  Then I sliced and diced the rest to match the other veggies in the chowder. (Fine dice or chop in food processor.)

Pretty happy with the sweet and pretty flavorful chowder, I thought it needed a little more zip or bite to it.  Since I'd already messed with it, I didn't have much to lose by taking another step out of the box.  I decided to add a small, red jalapeno and a bit of red bell pepper.  I was looking for color, sweetness, and just a hint of heat, so I diced them both into tiny pieces.

After the final addition, parsley from the garden, it looks like Confetti Chowder... Party in a Pot?  I hope so!

Confetti Clam Chowder

1/2 lb bacon
8 small potatoes, red & Yukon Gold mix
1 sweet onion
1 bulb fennel
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
2-3 cloves garlic, put through Zyliss Susi 2 Garlic Press
1 small red jalapeno
1/2 red bell pepper
1 51-oz can minced clams, including nectar
2 cups corn
3 cans evaporated whole milk
1 cup organic whole milk
black pepper
seasoning salt
1 teaspoon thyme
Fresh parsley

I chopped and lightly browned the bacon (I used turkey bacon, so cooked it in a bit of Canola oil, but with real bacon, that wouldn't be necessary, of course), then added and sauteed the finely chopped veggies: onions, 6 of the potatoes, fennel, carrots, and minced garlic in oil, then added a cube of butter and 1/2 cup flour.  When mixed, I added the milk and clam nectar, and heated to bubbly, while stirring.  

I added the remaining coarsely chopped potatoes, followed by the clams, peppers, corn, seasoning salt, black pepper, thyme, and parsley.  I cooked until the larger potatoes were almost done, then poured in the milk.  I heated all through, simmering until everyone was ready to eat.

Previous related posts:

Celebration Chowder
So Excited! A New Soup/Stew/Stock
Pot is on it's Way

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