Wherein I am Not Mary Poppins. Or Martha Stewart. {Fish Chowder}

On any given day in our house you’re likely to find piles of laundry, kitchen counters with food dried on them, cat and dog hair gathered in the corners of the common rooms and dirty dishes piled in the sink.  It’s not pretty, but it’s our life.  Two growing boys, two working parents, and a multitude of furry pets does not always an idyllic household make. I’d like to tell you that I have a cleaning scheduled that I adhere to, and that my children are conscientious about picking up after themselves and putting their dirty clothes in the hamper regularly (rather than tossing their dirty socks haphazardly in the air, allowing them to land wherever they may).  I’d like to appear to have it all together, but that would be a lie.

The truth is, sometimes I’m a mess.  I stress out when I know people are coming over, worried that they’re going to judge me and my disorganized house.  I long to be Mary Poppins – to just snap my fingers and have everything go back to its rightful place.  My mother used to joke that, as her only child, I was “practically perfect in every way.”  Sadly, that description does not come with a magic carpet bag full of delightful tricks and the ability to sing your cares (and your cluttered play-rooms) away.  fish chowder1

I’ve come to realize, in my almost 40 years, that we all have our strengths.  While some of us are excellent housekeepers; others of us are decidedly not. I, clearly, fall into the latter category. However, I am not completely devoid of domestic talents.  I may not have the ability to decorate impeccably or organize seamlessly; but, by God, I can cook.  fish chowder4

This fish chowder has found its way into regular rotation at our dinner table.  It’s super simple to put together, and the flavor is incredible.  It’s adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe.  I may not have all of Martha’s talents (or, rather, those of her staff), but I can certainly recognize a good recipe when I see one.

fish chowder2

Fish Chowder

Prep time: 10 Minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups stock (chicken, vegetable or fish)
  • 1 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 wild-caught flounder fillets (or other flaky white fish)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk (you can also omit the cream and use 1 cup of milk instead)
  • salt and pepper to taste

fish chowder3

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan
  2. Add celery, onion and garlic.  Saute until softened
  3. Add the flour and stir to coat with the butter.  Cook until it starts to smell nutty (do not let it get too brown)
  4. Add the stock and stir to combine.  Allow to come to a boil.
  5. Add the bay leaf and the potatoes and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
  6. Add the fish and simmer until it’s cooked through and begins to flake apart when stirred
  7. Add the cream/milk and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Enjoy!
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Nannerpuss (Or, If You Like, Banana Pudding)

This is a little glimpse into the inner workings of my squirrel-y gray matter.

I sat down to write this post this morning – a post about banana pudding (and an excellent one at that) – when I got sidetracked.  I was trying to come up with a title, and I kept getting stuck on the silly name that my mother had for banana pudding when I was little: nanner-poo (please don’t judge).  From there, I got an endless loop of this:

Do you remember Nannerpuss?  When my oldest son was around three years old, this commercial was popular.  A friend/coworker and I had a mild obsession with this obnoxious dancing and singing banana puppet – mostly because my little boy would sing that annoyingly catchy song in his adorable little three-year-old voice.

As an aside – what does a banana really have to do with pancakes, anyway?  Ponder that and get back to me.

And that jingle?  It really is hard to get out of your head.  So this morning?  When it got stuck in my head?  I decided I needed to share it with all of you so that you could share in my misery joy. Now you, too, can enjoy this little ditty every time you make this glorious banana pudding (nannerpuss) recipe.

You’re welcome.

Now, onto the recipe.  This is an adaptation of an adaptation, so forgive me for indulging in a little background first (as though I haven’t already been more than a little self-indulgent this morning – see above).  As a southern girl, I grew up on banana pudding – layers of  ‘Nila Wafers, sliced bananas, vanilla custard/pudding, all topped with a toasty meringue.  Delightful.  The one thing that always bothered me was that the pudding/custard didn’t taste banana-y enough.  And why should it?  It was vanilla pudding after all.

So, I set out to figure out a way to make my custard more banana-y.  Because, hey! why not?

I turned to my trusty pals at Tastespotting, knowing that someone, somewhere, sometime must have had a similar idea.  And lo and behold, I was right.  Boulder Locavore (who I love, by the way), posted this version a while back.  It was an adaptation of award winning Chef Alex Seidel‘s recipe, which calls for you to make a banana-infused milk before you begin to make your pudding.  You do this by steeping very ripe or roasted bananas in whole milk and then letting the mixture sit overnight to allow the flavors to infuse.  I was intrigued, so I thought I’d give it a go.  Of course, I changed things up just a bit (as I do), but mostly I followed the recipe fairly closely.  What resulted was the most flavorful, silky-smooth banana pudding I’ve ever had.  Try it – I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Nannerpuss Banana Pudding

prep time: 24 hours

cook time: 15 minutes

yields: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 30 oz. banana milk
  • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 very ripe bananas (the skin on mine was almost black they were so ripe)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 2 1/2 oz. sugar
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 9 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 oz. egg yolks (approx. 7 egg yolks)
  • 8 oz. whole eggs (approx 5 whole eggs, without shells)
  • 1 3/4 oz. cornstarch
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Begin a day in advance – place your whole milk, very ripe bananas, vanilla bean (seeds and pod), 2 1/2 oz. sugar and 1 1/4 oz. butter in a heavy saucepan and bring almost to a boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and chill overnight.
  2. Strain the banana milk through a fine mesh strainer, pressing with a rubber spatula to extract as much liquid from the bananas as possible.  Discard the mashed banana and vanilla bean pod.
  3. Combine banana milk, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan – bring to a simmer
  4. In a blender, combine egg yolks, whole eggs and cornstarch.  Blend on high to thoroughly combine.
  5. Once the milk mixture has come almost to boil, temper the egg mixture by adding a little bit (1/2-cup or so) of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture in the blender while it is running.  Then add the egg mixture to the hot milk, stirring constantly to avoid curdling.  Be careful – it sets up fast.
  6. Stir constantly, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as you do.  Remove from the heat if it starts to get too thick.
  7. Once the mixture is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
  8. Add the melted butter, stirring to combine.
  9. Set aside to cool.
  10. Whip the heavy whipping cream and 1 tablespoon of sugar to stiff peaks
  11. To assemble – have ready 12 half-pint mason jars
  12. Place two vanilla wafers in the bottom of each jar
  13. Place two to three slices of banana on top of the cookies
  14. Ladle 1/2-3/4 cup of custard into each jar
  15. Place two more vanilla wafers and three more banana slices in each jar
  16. Ladle the remaining custard into each jar
  17. Top each jar with a dollop of whipped cream.
  18. Enjoy warm, or chill if you prefer.

PS – voting in the Marx Foods’ Integrale Gauntlet is still open (until 1 PM PST tomorrow, in fact), so if you haven’t already, please go take a look at my Risotto Carbonara recipe, and then click over there and vote (for me, if you’re so inclined).  Thanks!