After I made salt cod for my 2nd charcutepalooza challenge post, I wanted to use it in some sort of soup or stew. I found a lovely salt cod chowder in of my favorite culinary resources, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, so I set about adapting it.

Despite how quickly this chowder cooks, it is extremely flavorful thanks to the fennel and saffron. It’s enhanced with a bit of Tuscan kale and is thickened with just a little bread (I used Rudi’s gluten-free bread). I added a small amount of oil-packed anchovies, too, which added even more “oomph”; it’s a healthy and deeply satisfying meal in a bowl.

The garlic aioli is optional, but elevates the chowder to another level, I think.

Salt Cod Chowder with Garlic Aioli

adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

For the chowder:
*1- 1 1/2 pounds salt cod (preferably made with sustainable cod), soaked for 24-48 hours (change the water several times during the soaking period)
*1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped into quarters (reserve the fennel fronds for garnish if you like)
*1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
*1 generous pinch of saffron threads
*1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
*1 cup trimmed, cleaned and chopped leeks
*3 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
*1 cup Tuscan kale, finely shredded
*pinch of fennel pollen
*28 oz. can of organic whole peeled tomatoes, with liquid
*1/4 cup Vermouth or dry white wine
*1 slice favorite gluten-free or regular whole grain bread, toasted- optional
*1.5 oz. jar of wild caught anchovies in oil (about 2 tablespoons)- optional
*garlic aioli- optional

For the aioli:
*1 large garlic clove,
*1 large egg yolk
*pinch of coarse sea salt
*1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if necessary
*freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

For the chowder:
1. Drain the salt cold and slice into bite-sized pieces.

2. Boil fennel in water to cover until tender. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat olive oil in a large pot on the stove and add the saffron. Let it "bloom" in the oil for a moment, then add the onions. Turn the heat down and allow the onions to cook until soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add the leeks, garlic, kale, fennel, fennel pollen, tomatoes and Vermouth. Use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes and incorporate all of the ingredients, and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the cod pieces. Break up the toast and distribute it through the chowder. Simmer for several minutes, until the cod is almost cooked through. Turn off the heat to allow the fish to finish cooking and the toast pieces to soak up the liquid. Taste the broth and season with salt, if necessary (you probably won't need any if you add the anchovies). Serve with fresh ground pepper and the optional garlic aioli.

For the aioli:
1. Pound the garlic with a mortar, then use a whisk to combine with salt and 1 egg yolk. Whisking continuously, work in the oil a drop at a time; when it starts to thicken, you can add more oil in a thin stream. When you have a thick emulsion, taste the aioli, season with pepper, then taste again. You can thin it by adding a few drops of water, if desired, or add a little more oil if the garlic is overpowering (though mine was very garlicky and I loved it with the soup). If you have trouble, see this helpful post from David Lebovitz.)