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Soup of the Day 20110224

Ha! Fooled you. No picture today.

Actually, what happened was this: Cara Sposa went out last night and I looked at what we had and found:

1. a smoked pork chop.
2. many large yellow-fleshed potatoes
3. many large asian shallots

and recalled having:

4. a large frozen lake trout

in the freezer. The lake trout was an experiment. There is a Northern Manitoban development project wherein first nations fishermen hook-catch large lake trout and clean them (gut and scale), then flash-freeze them. These are sold individually bagged at a very reasonable price (18" trout for about the same price as a T-bone steak). We bought a couple, but Cara Sposa is not favourably inclined towards fish, especially fish-with-many-bones, so they have been in the freezer for some time.

Today is garbage day, during which the compost is also taken away. So the best time to cook fish is the day before, so that the smell of fish does not get a chance to permeate the winter-sealed house. See? Wisdom in action.

Now, I have been under the influence of research from time to time, and one of the more favourable and interesting bits of research was Mark Kurlansky's book Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World.

One fascinating tidbit from this book: North America was not discovered commercially by the Europeans in 1492, as is popularly chanted in the classrooms of my past. Europe's first major commercial venture in the Americas was actually much earlier, by Basque fishermen. And being Basques, who being in verifiable stereotype shrewd and distrustful of the rest of Europe, they kept the secret endless well of cod they discovered off of what was to be called Newfoundland a trade secret. All the vast supply of dried, salt cod being served across Europe on Friday by papal decree was actually caught, salted, and dried in Newfoundland. True story. Look it up.

But back to the topic. There were several descriptions in the book of "chowder", which is really just whatever stew you make up out of what you have at the end of the day in order to eat whatever catch you couldn't sell on the market before it spoils. This runs the gamut from Bouillabaisse to New England Clam, but it was essentially a product of necessity and availability. So, eschewing many of the fine recipes at the back of the book, I took a page from history and extemporized with the matter at hand, which means substitutes: Skinned, deboned chunks of Lake Trout for Cod, fine-dice smoked pork chop for salt pork, and thinly sliced potatoes for hard tack, and thinly sliced asian shallots (the big 'uns) for onions-if-yer-has-em. Layer shallots, potatoes, pork, fish, potatoes, repeat, until the pot is full or you've run out of ingredients. Add just enough seawater (but in my case, salt-and-tapwater) to fill in the gaps. Cook very slowly for an hour and a half.

Wow, that's good stuff. And plus, never cooking fish except to grill it whole, I tried my hand at deboning a trout. So far, only two pin-bones escaped me, so with more practice, I may get it right.

ETA: And very hardy. Which is good, because I see we are now about to get another two feet of snow tomorrow. Oh, joy.