On the strawberry patch: Winter warmup

Hearty smoke salmon chowder caps a day outdoors

We took our little boy out for a ski on a local trail last weekend and let him ride the whole time with the chariot cover open.

For the first time, we could look back and see his smiles as he squealed and cheered at every powdery downhill, his sweet face pink from the cold and the wind. We pointed out every eagle and airplane, and even had an exciting encounter with a yearling moose on the edge of the trail.

The first time we took him for a ski, we were both so terrified we had to stop practically every 15 feet to check that he wasn’t being smothered under the bunting.

Now we confidently charge down hills with him at full speed to the sounds of his joy. Perhaps next year he will be ready to ski beside us. It amazes me to watch him grow and change so quickly, and our little family changes right along with him, bringing us new thrills and delights all along the way.

After all that exercise in fresh air, we needed something hearty and rich. This smoked salmon chowder is a copycat version of the famous smoked salmon chowder served at Pike Place Chowder in Seattle.

When you read the ingredients, you might be skeptical, but trust me, the result is as comforting as it is complex.


4 cups fish stock

3 tablespoons butter

1 large white or yellow onion- diced

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes — peeled and diced to about ½ inch

4 large stalks celery — diced

3 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons capers (plus 2 teaspoons caper brine)

1 15-ounce can diced plain tomatoes or 3 large fresh diced tomatoes

12 ounces smoked salmon, broken into bite sized chunks. Try not to shred it too fine, the big pieces are important for texture.

6 ounces raw shrimp, cut into ½ inch pieces

4 ounces cream cheese

1 cup heavy cream

3 bay leaves

½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in your hands or a mortar and pestle

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 tablespoons old bay seasoning


Saute the onion and celery on medium heat in butter until the celery is soft and the onions are translucent.

Add the potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, basil, fennel seed, capers and brine, and cook another 3 minutes.

Add your stock and tomato paste, turn the heat to high, and allow to boil for 15 minutes, (or until the potatoes are soft) stirring often to keep the bottom from scorching.

Drop the heat to low, add the cream cheese, and stir gently until the cheese has completely melted.

Add your old bay seasoning, smoked salmon, shrimp and heavy cream, stir very gently until combined, and allow to come back up to a gentle simmer.

Turn off the heat, taste and season with salt and pepper. You might not need any extra salt — the smoked salmon was salty enough to season our chowder on its own.

Remove the bay leaves before serving.

Garnish with fresh parsley.

A salad and a toasted baguette (or maybe even some of my cheddar biscuits) would be excellent side dishes. However, this recipe is so rich and filling you may not need anything on the side — we sure didn’t. Unfortunately, this dish was not toddler-approved this time, but someday it might be his favorite meal, because I will certainly give him more opportunities to learn to like it.

Tressa Dale is a culinary and pastry school graduate and U.S. Navy veteran from Anchorage. She lives in Nikiski with her husband, 2-year-old son and two black cats.