I'll just say it.
I love to eat. I mean, I LOVE to eat. I'm definitely an eater.
And, I love to try new foods, new places to eat, new ways of preparing foods. The hubs and I enjoy an informal "date night" of sorts about once a week. Sometimes less frequently. Usually by Friday at 4:30, I don't feel like coming home and spending an hour on dinner, and there's a sort of "the work week is finally over, let's go to happy hour" mentality. So Friday is usually the night we go out to eat. Sometimes it's to a nicer place (and by nicer, I mean Outback Steakhouse), but we're more bar-food-kinda people.
And, we when go on vacation, we put the tiniest attention to detail in where we eat. I research places, read reviews, and look for the best-kept secrets, locals hangout, restaurant that embodies what ever region we're visiting. We are so excited to go to Vegas later this year, because we've already got three nights' dinners planned. (In case you're wondering, it's The Buffett at the Bellagio, Gallagher's Steakhouse, and Wayne's Sushi.) Damn, I'm getting really hungry, and I just ate.
Anyway, I was eating dinner by myself last night, because Jeremy was helping a coworker get some firewood. I was thinking, "You know, this chowder is better than any I've had in a restaurant before." I mean, I was eating something that I made from scratch that was better than anything like it that someone who does this for a living makes.
Don't get me wrong, I whole-heartedly buy into the theory that something "made with love" or "grown with love" just tastes better. There's a satisfaction in eating something that you made by yourself or grew yourself that often adds to the quality of food.
Because of the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid I just finished up, we have been eating almost exclusively at home. I defitinely did miss those "date nights." But, despite the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid, we sure did eat pretty darn good in July. The pizzas I made come to mind. One evening was deep dish with sausage, onions and chard; and the next evening was a thin-crust margherita pizza. We had some killer steaks for our anniversary dinner, too, that we made on the grill.
And this chowder I was eating right then, that I made from scratch, was right up there with the best I've ever had. Then, I realized that the recipe I used for the Seafood Chowder was from the Junior League of Boston's cookbook. I'm guessin' that they know a thing or two about how to make good chowder. It never hurts to use quality ingredients, too, though.
Here's the recipe how I made it. I cut it in half and modified it a little bit.
Seafood Chowder (makes 4 servings)
1 large red skinned potato, diced (a little more than a cup)
1/2 cup of chopped onion
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp minced garlic
3 Tbs flour
2 cups of half and half
1 cup of skim milk (more or less)
1 cup of shrimp stock
6 Key West Pink Shrimp, uncooked and chopped
1-6 oz. can of crab meat
1-6 oz. can of chopped clams
salt and pepper
2 tsp of hot sauce
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp of paprika
2 tsp of dried oregano
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook potatoes until tender. Drain and set aside. Heat a large pot on medium heat, and add olive oil, butter, onion and garlic. Cook until onions are beginning to get tender (about 8 minutes) but stir frequently and make sure butter or garlic doesn't burn. Add the flour. Cook about 2 minutes longer, stiring frequently. Add half and half, stock, potatoes and seafood, and bring to a slight boil. Add milk until the desired consistency is reached. Add seasonings. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often to keep milk from scalding.
According to my Lose It! app on my iPhone, 1 serving has 429 calories.
A word on seafood:
You've heard the hype about how we should all be eating more fish for our health, but at the same time, about the rising levels of mercury found it our seafood supply. Ever heard of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch? It has an iPhone app to tell you which types of seafood to avoid and why. If you don't have an iPhone, there's a downloadable guide, and the website itself is very helpful. It tells you not only which types to avoid because the species tends to have high levels of mercury, but also which to avoid because of overfishing and other environmental concerns.
I've had this app for a while and find it to be very helpful at a restaurant or at the grocery store seafood counter, cause I can't remember all the ones to avoid off the top of my head. For example, I was at the grocery store Sunday buying shrimp for this recipe. I reached for my usual Kroger-brand 51-60 count unpeeled uncooked shrimp that I buy. Sweet! It is on sale for $4.99 a pound. But for some reason, I thought to check the list, even though this is usual kind of shrimp I buy.
Well, I'm a little embarrassed that the shrimp I've bought all along is labeled "Avoid." Why? The app says because of "pollution and habitat loss." How do I distinguish? Well, turn the package over. The Seafood Watch list is divided up by country of origin. Seafood is required to have the country of origin on the label. This shrimp is a farm-raised product of Thailand. Any shrimp that is imported farmed should be avoided. Actually, according to the Seafood Watch, all shrimp should be avoided UNLESS it's wild-caught from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (thanks, BP...), South Atlantic, North Atlantic or from Canada. U.S. regulations ensure that shrimp trawlers are designed to allow most other marine life to escape, thereby reducing bycatch, which can be as high as 75% of the total catch without the special design. I should point out that shrimp from Oregon are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, and are the best choice, but also hard to find at grocery stores around here.
I panicked for a minute, until I saw the package of Key West Pink Shrimp in the freezer, with a large "Wild Caught Product of the USA" seal on the label. It was $3 more a pound, but worth it to me. This another way to "vote with my fork!"