Soooo . . . it really is beginning to cool down. We crave more warming soups and stews. Here is a favorite of mine which can be made with any smoked fish in your neighborhood.
SMOKY SALMON CHOWDER
3 slices thick sliced smoked bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups leeks, white and light- green parts, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/3 cup dry white vermouth or white wine
3 cups fish, chicken or vegetable stock
3/4-pound fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch rounds or quarters
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 cup or so crème fraîche
12 ounces skinned and boned hot smoked salmon fillet, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 small bunch spinach, separated into leaves with large stems removed
Garnish with a drizzle of smoked olive oil, optional*
In a heavy pot over medium-high heat, brown bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
Spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pot. Add butter and let melt. Add leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until leeks are soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in paprika and vermouth and simmer until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. cook 1 minute. Stir in stock, 1 cup water, potatoes and fennel and cook until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.
Stir in crème fraîche until smooth. Add fish and cook until just opaque, 2 to 4 minutes. Use a fork to flake fish into large pieces if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Divide spinach in the bottoms of warmed bowls and ladle soup over. Sprinkle on reserved bacon and serve immediately.
*Smoked olive oil is available from www.thesmokedolive.com and from Italian sources online.