Spring in Oregon is a flighty thing. She can be wearing a summer dress and flip-flops one moment, then bundled up in fleece and rain boots the next. She's been seen making daisy chains and picking peonies aplenty, but there's just as good a chance you'll catch her stomping through ankle-deep puddles.
A Northwest spring is the time for taking the cozy flannel sheets off the bed and putting the heavy sweaters and coats in the closet for next year. But any Oregonian worth her salt knows that even a several-day stretch of warm, summery weather will almost always turn toward the cool and damp at some point, at least until after the Fourth of July.
Sorrel at the farmers' market.
That's the reason my braising pot is never far from reach this time of year, so I can pretty much whip up a big batch of stew or soup whenever inclement or chilly weather returns. The chowder below is quick and simple, and you can use any fish or shellfish that comes easily to hand. And it's perfectly permissible to substitute chicken, vegetable or corn stock if you didn't boil up your fish bones or crab shells to make fish stock—just make a note to do it next time!
The fun thing about making soups in spring is throwing in whatever's growing in the garden—curls of pea shoots, green tips from favas, chard or sorrel that's starting to come back—to give that chowder some color and a little zip of flavor. Slice a few thick pieces of bread for sopping and you've got a meal in a bowl.
Spring Seafood Chowder
1/4 c. butter or margarine
1 onion, chopped in 1/2" dice
2 stalks celery, cut in 1/4" dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 med. russet potatoes, cut in 1/2" dice
4 c. whole milk
4 c. fish stock
3 c. pea shoots, cut in 1" pieces
1 lb. white fish, such as cod
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and cut in 1/2" slices
3 sprigs fresh thyme (each about 4" long)
Melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until it becomes translucent. Add celery and garlic and sauté till tender. Add potatoes and sauté about 5 min. Add milk and fish stock and bring to a simmer. Add fish, shrimp, pea shoots and thyme sprigs. Return to a simmer and cook for at least half an hour, or longer if possible.