After spending a month at sea as a chef on a private yacht, Chef Rebecca Clarke found inspiration she could bring home when docking in Ireland.
“I was immediately inspired by the strong presence of seafood, including salmon, in their dishes,” Clarke says. “There were strong parallels with the Pacific Northwest.”
Now as the executive chef of Fairsing Vineyard in Yamhill, Oregon, Clarke regularly hosts the winery’s multi-course Full Circle Culinary Series, in which guests to the striking estate-vineyard and winery are immersed into a culinary experience that showcases much of what the chef learned from her travels. Diners are also treated with a pairing for each course of Fairsing’s limited-production wines, plus the venue’s panoramic views of the northern Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast Range.
A native of Corvallis, Oregon, Clarke knows the erratic Northwest weather well, and even though spring is officially here, so is the rain. And when it rains, sometimes you need some chowder. Touching on that visit to Ireland years back and with St. Patrick’s Day just behind in the rear view mirror, Clarke whipped up this comforting dish featuring Fairsing’s new 2017 Chardonnay.
“In my philosophy of cooking, great foods are created by layering flavors and seasoning well,” she says. “In this dish, the alcohol burns off on the Chardonnay but leaves behind the gorgeous concentration of acidity and fruit as one of those beautiful layers. It creates depth.”
Simply enough, the chef recommends pairing with the same wine she cooks with for this chowder. “It’s like the colors of the color wheel — opposites are the perfect complement for each other,” she says. “The rich fruit and bright acid of the Chardonnay balance perfectly with smoked aspects of the salmon and creamy qualities of the soup.”
Smoked Salmon Chowder
Makes 2 ½ quarts
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 ounces 2017 Fairsing Vineyard Chardonnay
8 ounces seafood or fish stock
6 ounces clam juice
6 ounces water
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, diced
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 ¼ tablespoons flour
1 ¼ cups cream
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne, to taste
1 teaspoon salt
¾ pound smoked salmon, shredded
Fresh parsley, for garnish
Heat the butter in large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Sauté until soft and just starting to caramelize, or slightly brown. Add the wine to deglaze the pan. Continue to cook until the liquid is almost completely evaporated.
Add seafood stock, clam juice, water and potatoes. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Simmer potatoes until fork tender. (Don’t overcook the potatoes because they will continue to cook when you add the milk.) Add the milk. When measuring the final cup of milk, whisk in the flour and add to the soup. As it begins to bubble, add the cream, thyme, cayenne and salt. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
When ready to serve, add the smoked salmon. The salmon is salty, so don’t over-season before adding. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Add parsley to garnish.