I often think about a salad bar when I start to adapt a recipe to fit my seasonal and dietary needs. Within the loose definition of a salad it’s easy to add or remove flavors that interest you, swapping one protein for another or switching the dressing. Even if you’re no longer having a Waldorf or a Cobb, the meaning of the salad remains intact. I’ve written about creative expression despite the pressure that a recipe exercises over you before. So this isn’t only a recipe, but a guide to making the best creamy pot pie/chowder for your tastes. Here’s what can change and what needs to stay.
The first tip to this stew is to control the salt and all of the flavors by building your own vegetable stock. The mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery holds the key to your flavor. I’ve also exercised some choice by choosing leeks and shallots as my allium instead of onions. Vegetables in the allium family, which also includes garlic, chives, and scallions, are mostly interchangeable though their textures respond differently to heat. Choose what is available for the season and scale the amount based on how strong you want the flavor to be.
Other vegetables can be switched for the season as well. I used local corn in early October and might try some peas or green beans later this spring. Bell peppers or roasted poblano peppers would taste great. Feel free to add bacon or leftover ham at the beginning and dial back the salt (After giving up pork for Lent my trip to Dallas this week is well timed. BBQ!) Raid the fridge and chuck it in the pot – that’s what they call #bestovers.
I went to Martha’s Vineyard last September, tried the clam chowder at nearly every restaurant I visited, and discovered that even the consistency of the standard New England dish allows some free will. The chowder is thickened with a roux of butter and flour and made creamy with dairy. You can adjust the thickness, and the fat, by choosing between heavy cream, half and half and milk, or using a mixture based on what you have. If you use a thin dairy and want a thick broth for the pot pie, don’t increase the amount of roux too much – you’ll end up with a floury tasting gravy. (I had a rather disastrous test with this.) You can puree some of the vegetables before adding the seafood and let the starchy potatoes bring everything together. Or, just embrace a soupy pot pie by baking in individual ramekins or serving into bowls.
Finally, you see that I don’t even want to call this a pot pie because you don’t have to have the crust. Cook the seafood a few minutes longer and serve it as chowder. You can bake the crust separately with an egg wash and serve as crackers, mixing in a little grated parmesan, garlic powder, and/or dried thyme if you’re so inclined.
You really can have it your way.
Shrimp and Scallop Pot Pie or Chowder with Leeks and Potatoes
Pie Crust or Purchased Puff Pastry
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped (or a small onion)
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon thyme
3 cups water
1 pound small-medium shrimp
1/2 pound bay scallops
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add garlic and shallots and simmer for a few minutes, without browning garlic. Add mirepoix of celery, carrots and leeks and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in potatoes, season with thyme and cover with water. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add shrimp and scallops and continue to cook for 10 minutes.
Melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Whisk in half and half and simmer until thickened. Pour into stew and season with cayenne pepper and salt, to taste.
For chowder: Continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes until seafood is fully cooked.
For pot pie: Pour into individual ramekins or a large casserole dish and cover with crust. Brush with egg wash and bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes until crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
|After you pull the pot pie from the oven, let it rest just like this for a few minutes. Your un-burnt tongue will thank you.|
|Serve the soupy pot pie in individual ramekins or into bowls, but don’t use too much roux to thicken. You can pulse the potatoes a bit if you want to thicken the broth.|
|Once you give this recipe a try you might want to never change it. But let me know how you like it in the comments below.|