What I have always loved about being an American is that through it all, we somehow manage to keep the faith, persevere and stand together.
It used to be that going to the grocery store was a routine and mundane task. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, we all must think differently about going out to buy food and adjust the way that we prepare favorite family recipes based upon what is available. This is where do-it-yourself dinner recipes come in handy.
Basically, a DIY dinner recipe is about finding a way to retain the flavors of the recipes you love while using the ingredients that you have on hand. If you have always wanted to free yourself from the restraints of a recipe, now is the time to do it! Think of the current lack of ingredients as permission to tap into your inner chef.
To ease into creating your own DIY dinner recipes, start with making a pot of chowder. No one really knows the origin of the term “chowder,” but whether it came from French, Caribbean, Portuguese or Brazilian cooks, the basic meaning is connected to the large pot that the meal is cooked in.
Chowders were introduced to North America by immigrants from France and England more than 250 years ago. Native Americans called the dish “chawder,” which was interpreted as “chowder” by early settlers and fishermen in New England.
The original versions of the dish consisted of a pot filled with a mixture of fresh fish, salt pork, leftover hardened biscuits (which were used as a thickener), onions, water and whatever spices were available. A chowder is a delicious way to use the ingredients you have on hand to create a meal that does not require extensive prep or simmering for hours.
My recipe for Seafood and Sweet Corn Chowder uses the basic techniques for making a chowder, but is designed to accommodate the need to vary ingredients based upon what you have on hand or what you can purchase at the store.
Whether you decide to make a seafood or vegetarian chowder, feel free to create your own version of this DIY dinner.
SEAFOOD AND SWEET CORN CHOWDER
If you don’t have all the vegetables, seafood or spices on hand, omit or substitute the ingredient with what you do have. This chowder will still be delicious without it!
3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1/2 cup (about l large stalk) chopped celery
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or 1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried dill or tarragon, or 1 tablespoon dill pickle juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken broth, seafood stock, clam juice, bouillon fish base or water
1 to 2 large Russet potatoes, or 3 red skin or Yukon Gold potatoes cut into 2-inch cubes, about 2 to 3 cups
2 large carrots, chopped
2 cups frozen corn, thawed, or 1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel or cream-style corn, or 6 ears sweet corn, husk and silk removed, or frozen corn on the cob, thawed with kernels cut from the cobb
2 cups heavy cream, half and half, whole milk or 2 (14-ounce) cans evaporated milk
1 3/4 to 2 cups fully cooked, skinless salmon chunks, or 1 can (14 3/4 ounces) salmon, drained, flaked, bones and skin removed, or 1 to 2 cups fresh or frozen peeled and deveined shrimp, cooked peeled and deveined shrimp, or cooked crab meat (checked for pieces of shell) or a combination of the seafood equaling 1 3/4 to 2 cups.
1. Place the butter or oil into a large saucepan or Dutch oven placed over medium heat. Add in the celery, onion, green bell pepper, garlic or garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper, dill, tarragon or dill pickle juice, and the cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Saute, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Stir in the broth, stock, juice or water, potatoes, carrots and the remaining teaspoon of the salt and pepper. Cover and bring the chowder to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to low; stir the mixture, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until the vegetables are nearly tender. Stir in the corn, cream or milk, and the salmon, shrimp or cooked crab meat (or a combination of seafood). Simmer on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.
4. Garnish with lemon wedges, chopped parsley or green onions. Serve with toasted French bread or crackers. Serves 6.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is www.divapro.com.