Crappie Chowder Gumbo
By Ken McBroom
1 lb crappie fillets, or other firm white fish, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 ½ cups heavy cream (HINT: warm separately before adding to pot)
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 lb smoked sausage cut ¼ inch thick rounds
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 lb imitation crab meat
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup *dry white wine
2 cups clam juice
Salt & pepper to taste
In a large pot add a little olive oil and white wine and bring up to a boil. Now add the onions and simmer until translucent. Next add potatoes and enough water to cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow potatoes and onions to simmer while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Maintain water level in the pot as the potatoes and onions cook.
Meanwhile sear the smoked sausage in a deep skillet and set aside. You can add each ingredient to the pot as you go, or set them aside while the potatoes and onions simmer. I like to sear my sausage even if I’m using packaged, fully-cooked sausage. It not only heats up this ingredient before it is added to the pot, it also leaves those flavorful crumbs in the skillet. These scrapings are packed with flavor and are left in the skillet when preparing the roux.
The roux: Roux is used to help thicken the soup a little. In the culinary world, this version would be in the category of a blonde roux. Two rules of thumb when preparing a roux: keep the temperature low and take your time. High heat will not only burn the flour, but will also make the texture grainy.
Using the same skillet you used to seared the sausage, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and another tablespoon of the white wine and stir to lift the bits of sausage left on the bottom of the pan. Now pour a little clam juice in for taste. Bring the liquid to a low boil then introduce the flour slowly as you stir constantly. Stir in enough flour to create a thick roux – the proportion being about the size of a golf ball. This roux not only thickens the chowder but it also grabs all that sausage flavor and adds it to the chowder as well. Cook the roux only until it starts to thicken and takes on a light yellow color. Stir constantly. Add a little olive oil if needed to get the consistency you want.
The Cream: In a sauce pan slowly warm the heavy cream just until hot, then turn off the heat. It is important to warm the cream before adding it to the pot. If you add the cream when it is cold, it will separate and curdle and you will not have a creamy chowder. This is especially important if you choose to use a light cream or milk for your chowder. Most chowders call for just the cream and clam juice, but since I use the water that the potatoes and onions are cooked in, I like to use heavy cream and it works great. I just add water at the end if I need more soup.
Putting it all together: By now the potatoes and onions are tender. (Potatoes will easily pierce with a fork) Do not strain any liquid away! Slowly pour the warm heavy cream into the pot with the potatoes and onions, stirring while adding. Now add the sausage. Allow the heat to come back up to a simmer and then add the rest of the clam juice. Add enough water to cover the ingredients by an inch or so and allow to come back up in temperature again. Add the spices and the imitation crab meat, followed by your crappie meat. The light meat of the crappie takes the least amount of time to cook so I add it last. The fish will break apart unless you have some thick chunks, but that’s OK. Once the chowder has simmered for a few minutes add the roux in small amounts, and stir gently throughout. Wait a minute or two before adding more roux, because it takes a minute for the thickness to show itself. Add roux until the desired thickness is reached and remember the chowder will thicken more as it cooks.
Serve with your favorite breadsticks or crackers.
**You can use water in place of the wine if you prefer.
About The Author: Ken McBroom is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer. For more information please visit www.ramblingangler.com send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org