Ben Sargent got his cooking career started by slinging chowders from a Brooklyn surf shop. So it should come as little surprise that he includes so many recipes for the seafood stew in his new cookbook, The Catch. Most of his chowders are of the thick, rich, and cream-filled New England type—tasty, but not exactly late summer fare. However, there is one chowder in the book made with striped bass and broccoli rabe pesto that serves as a bridge between quick summer meals and heartier cold-weather soups and stews.
Why I picked this recipe: Sargent has eleven chowders in his cookbook, and this one was by far the most creative and unusual.
What worked: Like all the other recipes in the book, this chowder was super easy to make and came together quickly once the pesto was pulsed. The bitterness of the rabe gave the chowder interesting (and welcome) contrast, and kept the soup from becoming muddled.
What didn't: As much as I liked the bitter notes from the pesto, I thought the chowder needed a little more richness to feel balanced. I stirred in a tab of butter, but adding more cream would also do the trick.
Suggested tweaks: If you find broccoli rabe too bitter, you could cut it with regular broccoli, or even make the pesto with all broccoli. You could substitute halibut or sea bass if you can't find striped bass.
Reprinted with permission from The Catch: Sea-to-Table Recipes, Stories & Secrets by Ben Sargent with Peter Kaminsky. Copyright 2013. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Pesto and Florets
- 1 1/4 pounds broccoli rabe, lower stems cut off
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 cups Fish Stock or clam juice
- 1/4 cup light cream
- 1 pound striped bass fillet, skinned and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
To prepare the pesto and florets: In a large pot of boiling water, cook the broccoli rabe until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Cut off all the florets and reserve. Chop the stems and leaves and transfer to a food processor. Add the pine nuts, garlic, capers, and lemon zest and process to coarsely chop. Add the cheese and all the olive oil and puree. Season with salt and pepper.
To prepare the chowder: In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the leeks and cook over medium-low heat, stirring a few times, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the cayenne and cook for about 20 seconds. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, stock, and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the cream and striped bass and simmer until the fish is just cooked, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the reserved broccoli rabe florets.
Ladle the chowder into bowls and pass the pesto at the table to stir in.
Note: The broccoli rabe pesto and blanched florets can be refrigerated, separately, overnight. Bring to room temperature before using.