Salmon Chowder

Cookies are boxed and stacked in the cold garage. The fruitcake sits soused in bourbon, and the beef roast waits in the fridge. After days of baking, planning and shopping, the menu is ready for Christmas dinner, but we still need a quick supper before heading out for midnight carols.

A well-stocked pantry provides the ingredients for a quick salmon chowder. This simple soup, adapted from a bisque recipe first found in the 1953 printing of The Joy of Cooking, did not make the cut for later editions, though it’s been a welcome part of our winter holidays.

Tins of wild Alaskan salmon offer nutritious, sustainable and inexpensive fish; canned tomatoes should always be on hand.With a few staples from the vegetable bin and a pint of milk, you’re ready to go.

Salmon Chowder

1 14 oz. can Alaskan salmon (pink or red)

1 tablespoon butter

l medium onion

1 or 2 branches celery

½ red or green pepper (optional)

2 cloves garlic minced

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon dry thyme or dill (or more fresh)

Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)

1 ½ cups chopped canned tomatoes plus juice or 1 14 oz. can         diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons flour

1 ½ –2 cups whole milk

few drops lemon juice, freshly ground pepper

Drain the broth from the salmon and save. Remove skin and bones from salmon and break fish into small pieces (the bones are fully edible and calcium rich if you choose to use them).

Chop the onion, celery and pepper. The total amount should be 2 cups or so of chopped mixed vegetables. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped mixture and sauté gently until wilted. Add garlic, paprika, thyme, red pepper and cook until fragrant. Add tomatoes, reserved fish broth; cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Mix olive oil and flour together to form a paste. Whisk the flour paste into the simmering soup and continue to cook 5 minutes. Add milk (use larger amount for thinner soup) and bring almost to a boil. Add the salmon and continue to cook until very hot. Taste for seasonings, adding salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve with hot toast or steamed white rice. Enough for 3–4.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at


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