Each year, chefs gather in Venice to vie for the title of San Pellegrino’s Young Chef of the Year. All under 30 years old, the cooks must prepare one of their dishes in the galley of a racing yacht. This June, Canada had a seat at the table for the first time, and I was on board one of the yachts with our representative, Danny Smiles from Le Bremner in Montreal. I can now say from experience that it is very difficult to cook on the water and keep your equilibrium. Smiles, however, remained steady as he prepared this memorable seafood soup. He didn’t win, but he made Canada proud.
Smiles used dashi as the basis of this chowder because it has umami flavour, making the soup richer than it would be if he had used water or fish stock. You can buy dashi in bottles or dried at Japanese stores if you do not want to make your own. The maple syrup gives the dish a familiar Canadian taste.
- 1 6-by-2-inch strip of kombu (available at any Asian food store)
- 4 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup bonito flakes (available at any Asian food store)
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 oz double-smoked bacon, diced
- 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1/2 cup diced shallots
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 lb firm fish such as halibut
- 1 lb clams
- 1/2 cup whipping cream (optional)
- 2 tbsp chervil leaves
2 tbsp chopped chives
To make the dashi (a Japanese stock), wipe kombu with a paper towel. Place it in a pot with warm water and soak for per cent& minutes to soften.
Remove kombu from water and cut several lengthwise slits into the leaf. Return kombu to water. Bring to a boil. As soon as the water begins to boil, remove the kombu to prevent the dashi from becoming bitter.
Stir the bonito flakes into the dashi and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When the bonito flakes have settled to the bottom (about per cent& minutes), pour dashi through a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Add maple syrup and reserve.
Wipe the stock pot clean and place over medium-high heat. Add the oil and then the bacon and fry for ’ minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, shallots, garlic and celery and cook for ’ to per cent minutes or until vegetables begin to sweat. Add dashi and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender (8 to 10 minutes).
Add fish and clams to soup and cover. Simmer until fish is just cooked and clams open wide (about 5 to 7 minutes). Spoon seafood into individual soup bowls. Add cream to broth, if desired. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and ladle broth and vegetables on top of seafood.
Garnish with chervil and chives.