Thursday, November 08, 2007

Healthy Seafood-Corn Chowder and Whole Wheat-Herb Biscuits

About a week ago, we could not decide what to eat for dinner to save our lives. The best we could do is decide we wanted fish, maybe salmon. Don’t you hate it when you just don’t know what you feel like eating (and cooking)?

Sometimes when this happens, I try to focus on things that I know will taste great no matter what mood I’m in. For me, if a meal involves biscuits or cornbread, life is good. I really enjoy making these quick breads, and since they go best with warm, comforting soups and stews, you suddenly find yourself with the makings of a delicious meal.

I’ve been wanting to try some biscuit variations after seeing some ideas in the November issue of Food & Wine. I decided to makeover my classic Buttermilk Biscuits with whole wheat flour. I added some herbs and some very good cheese, which is a decadent thing in a biscuit that’s already good and buttery. These biscuits have tons of flavor, and are a very different twist on the classic. I’m going to experiment more with them.

As for the Corn-Seafood Chowder, this was one of those recipes I put together on the fly that turned out even better than I’d hoped for. I remembered making a lighter seafood chowder a couple years ago that really turned out well, despite the omission of heavy cream. I used chicken broth and lowfat milk thickened with just a little bit of cornstarch. the texture is great, there is no raw, floury taste, and I promise this chowder does not have any tell-tale “lowfat” qualities--there's bacon after all. And it cooks in about 30 minutes total because there are no ingredients that require a long simmering time--the shrimp and scallops take just 2 minutes at the end!

Just a quick update on the Cranberry-Almond Crostata: Mike took down the last piece yesterday. This tart holds up just fine if you store it at room temperature, well-covered, for 2 to 3 days. I'm loving cranberries these days! I have a Cranberry-Lemon-Walnut Scone recipe to share soon, and there's a cranberry coffee cake I'm dying to bake!

Healthy Corn and Seafood Chowder
In the past, I’ve found the quality of fresh sea scallops at the supermarket to be somewhat uneven. So we recently started buying frozen sea scallops, and they are consistently delicious and sweet with a firm texture. I like the Whole Foods brand, but try what’s available where you shop--fresh or frozen--and see what you think. A good-quality fresh, dried chile powder is important for this dish because it adds not only flavor, but color. Don’t forget a good fistful of Italian parsley to sprinkle over the finished soup. The crisp, herby flavor is a nice counterpoint to the creamy chowder.

5 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 jalepeno, seeded and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
pinch dried marjoram or oregano
1/4 cup AP flour
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups lowfat milk
1 medium russet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups frozen sweet corn
1 tsp. mild chile powder
2 tsp. corn starch dissolved in 1 tbs. water
1/2 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
3/4 lb. sea scallops, cut into 2 or 3 pieces each
Fresh parsley for garnish

Cook the bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Transfer to a paper towel, leaving about one tablespoon of fat in the pot. Add the onion and jalapeno, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic, thyme and marjoram and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring well to combine. Add the chicken broth and milk. Raise the heat to high and cover until the liquid comes to a boil. Add the potatoes and return to boiling. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until potatoes are just tender.

Add the corn, chili powder. Return chowder to a simmer and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Add the shrimp and scallops and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until seafood is opaque and cooked through. Stir in the reserved bacon. Serve garnished with fresh parsley.

Whole Wheat Herb Biscuits with Comté
I use a bit of dried thyme to punch up the flavor of the fresh thyme, which is sometimes not as potent as I like. If you don’t have fresh thyme, you can use 1/2 tsp. of dried thyme total. Comte is a French cheese similar to Gruyère. Either one is a great choice, as is Fontina.

Makes about 8 2-inch or 6 3-inch biscuits

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
7 tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1/3 cup grated Comté or Gruyère cheese

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the cold butter and work it into the flour using your fingers to break up the chunks of butter into slightly flattened bits. At this point, the dough will still be very powdery and should not come together. Add the buttermilk, all the herbs and the cheese and stir gently with a wooden spoon just until all the flour is dampened. If you still have a lot of excess flour, add a few more drops of buttermilk until you have a barely cohesive, shaggy mass of dough--do not over mix. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it together with floured hands. Flatten into a thick disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to several hours.

While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the disk of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1⁄2 inch thick. Use a floured metal 2 to 3 inch biscuit cutter to stamp out as many biscuits as you can, dipping the cutter into some flour with each biscuit and placing on the prepared baking sheet. Collect the dough scraps, quickly re-roll and finishing stamping out biscuits. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve immediately with butter.

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Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Oh, yum!! I miss chowder. Not popular here in Italy at all.

I'll probably have trouble finding scallops, but I can try with more clams! :D

Susan said...

I'm definitely one of those people who has to eat what I'm in the mood for. I could never plan out a week's menus. That's a great looking bowl of chowder which reminds me of the chowder I had at home in RI. Chowder's not too big here in San Diego though. ;)

Kristen said...

Oh delicious! You came up with a great meal after all that him hawing about what to eat. I usually end up with cereal on nights like that :)

Julie said...

Hi Sara: Thanks for stopping by! This would be great with clams, or mussels too.
Susan: I don't plan ahead either--it takes the whimsy out of cooking. There are things I want to make on a given day, but I never set out to do a meal calendar. I can see that it would be helpful in a lot of situations, but oh well!
Kristen: There's no shame in cereal when you get home late from work and don't have the will the whip up something new and creative--my go-to thing on days like that is Amy's brand frozen Veggie Lasagna. I love it.

Haley said...

Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog while I was looking for chowder recipes, and I must say I'm so glad I found your blog! You have so many incredible recipes! I'll be trying this chowder soon :)

I would love to write about your chowder on our blog! If interested email me at

Haley, KI Blogger

Dale said...

That food looks healthy and delicious. I should definitely try it sometime. Thanks for that recipe.

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Dianna Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dianna Williams said...

With the provided recipe above, I could most definitely try to make this myself, though I'm quite certain, being a bad cook, that I wouldn't not make the same gastronomically and aesthetically-pleasing food as yours.

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dentist bloomington said...

It's a healthy meal to try. Brush your teeth after enjoying it as well.