Smoked Trout Chowder, Nature’s Bounty
We could hear it before we were actually there. The cool, crystal clear, rolling stream of Montauk State Park, making its way through and around fallen trees and rock structures, circling around in pools that reflect the beautiful surrounding landscape. The stream was loud, and seemingly, calling to us. Anticipation grew as we heeded the call, walking the path that led to our “regular” fishing hole, hoping that no one was parked there already. Once we turned the bend and saw nothin’ but water, the day was ours. In the presence of the heavy, early morning aroma of bonfires, our poles were readied with the day’s lucky lures and irresistibly colored bait. It all led up to that comforting “plop” of the first cast hitting the stream. After a few minutes of admiring the beauty of the river, there it was. Or was it? Is it a fish? Was that a bite? Or am I just dragging over the rocks and moss? A subtle tug resulted in a responding, just as subtle tug back, which in turn led to a firm hook set and a few seconds of erratic, multi directional swimming by the fish, and the just as erratic fumbling around for the net by this fisherman. But no worries, this one was landed and on the stringer.
And so the day was on, with more fish caught, some fish lost, more minutes of frantic action, and many minutes of idle, pondering time. Mother Nature was kind to us, providing a beautiful day to fish the stream and enjoy the nature around us, complete with wildlife and peaceful, technology-free surroundings. There’s nothing like spending a few days surrounded by nature at its finest, reinvigorating your body, mind and soul while the only task that you have is trying to fill your stringer with some of the most finicky fish around. It doesn’t always happen, but like the song says, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need“. And what we needed was fresh trout to do something a little different, making Smoked Trout Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl. Yowsa!
Based on a recipe I found in Sauce Magazine that can be found here, my recipe tweaks, other than preparing the meal entirely on the grill, included additional seasonings (extra seasoned pepper, Bayside seasoning, extra garlic and a bay leaf), a chunkier cut on the potatoes, about 6 green onions, and the infamous sourdough bread bowl.
A couple of the fresh trout were cleaned, deboned, given an olive oil rubdown, and prepped with salt, seasoned pepper, and garlic.
Ceremoniously laid over the indirect heat area of trusty old Weber, already huffing and puffing with a goodly amount of applewood smoke, these trout are likely gonna need about a 40 – 45 minute smoke session.
When ready, they can be removed from the grill, and left to rest about 10 minutes, helping the meat pull away from the crispy skin.
This plate of trout chunks can be set aside for a bit, until they make their reappearance at the very end of the cook.
Enough lallygagging, now the real work starts, so let’s get after it. Fix yourself a refreshment of your choice, add some charcoal, lump coal, or whatever type fuel you use, and amp your fire up to a high heat. When ready, grab a cast iron pot or dutch oven, and set it down over those coals to get nice and hot. Slice and dice about 5 pieces of quality bacon, and then toss it all in the pot so it can sing it’s sizzlin’ song. I like to use Burgers Smokehouse Peppered Bacon in just these types of situations, because, well, bacon goodness, hehe…
After rendered, add in a medium onion, also sliced and diced. Stir it around until it’s almost translucent
Then it’s time for the chicken broth, potatoes, water, garlic, celery, and a bay leaf. Let it all hang out and mingle while building up to a good simmer. Once it’s simmering and warmed through, put a lid on it, and let it cook about 20 minutes.
Now we’re in need of whole milk, a bit of all-purpose flour, Worcestershire-shower-shire sauce, hehe, and some kosher salt along with some Bayside Seasoning from Penzeys Spices. Dump it in, stir it around, and cook it some more…
Bring this creamy, chunky mixture to a boil, and then keep it boiling for a good 10 minutes, at least. It’ll get thicker as it boils longer. Something for you to think about, and make to your consistency needs.
Now, remember that delicious trout that we smoked way back in that first step? Time to stir in all that chunky trout and remove the pot from the fire.
Some would have you put this away after cooling, only to reheat it the next day, claiming it’s best that way. And while, like many soups, stews and chilis, it is very good the next day, I can attest that it’s also really good right here, right now, generously poured into a sourdough bread bowl with green onions and chives chopped and scattered over the top. Close your eyes, and you’ll feel like you’re dining in an old Northeastern fishing village, or perhaps back on the banks of that cool, crystal clear stream where it all began.
Either way is pretty OK with me.
Because Life Is Better Wood Fired