Gluten-Free Scallop Chowder
Does Chicano food require a side of frijoles and rice and tortillas and a dollop a guacamole? No. Comida Chicana is whatever the cook prepares. Does it have to contain chile? Yes, with certain exceptions, like Chicano pankekies. After all, a day without chile is like a day without sunshine.
At a post-New Year pachanga, The Gluten-free Chicano was talking comida chicana, chile-making, and cooking in general with fabulous artist Pola Lopez. Not only is Pola among the very best Chicana painters, she's also a top-notch maker of chile: Rich with garlic and red chile, it's fabulous on a tamal, perfect as a dip on a chip.
I asked Pola, who originates from New Mexico, why the state’s enchiladas, both green and red, are wheat-bearing dangers for celiacos and other gluten-adverse gente? Pola explained her home state is the capital of roux-based food. “The French influence,” Pola says.
When I complained that corn starch was easily substitutable for wheat flour, Pola reasoned that her homebody cooks probably think the ingredient too Mexican, and it would thus fly in the face of that French influence. Tant pis, which is another way of saying chacun a son gluten habit.
I love the Land of Enchantment, except I can’t eat their enchiladas and a lot of other food owing to that roux tradition. So I’m happy as can be that I’m a Californian and unconstrained by that dommage of a tradition.
In honor of Pola Lopez’ delicious chile--she pulled her punches and didn't make it smoking hot, lástima--The Gluten-free Chicano offers this roux-based chowder.
1 Russett potato, cubed or minced.
½ Brown onion, chopped.
12 frozen medium scallops
¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese
½ cube butter
¼ cup gluten-free baking mix
3 cups boiling water
2 cups lactose-free milk
1 can creamed corn
Ground cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper
Make the Chowder base:
In a deep frying pan over medium flame, heat olive oil.
Stir in the onions and potato and cook until just fork tender.
Add boiling water.
I like russets because they fall apart as they cook and thicken the broth without extra work or tools.
After about ten minutes, add the frozen scallops, cover and simmer while you make the roux. I like frozen scallops in this preparation because they exude flavor as they defrost and will need ten minutes or so before they turn translucent white, during which you make the roux.
If you know how to make a good roux, this chowder is an incredibly simple and elegant dish.
Learn to make a roux-based sauce; it is versatile. White sauce, or sauce béchamel, forms the basis of such meals as shit-on-a-shingle aka “creamed beef on toast” (serve on mashed potato for gluten-free goodness); a wondrous cheese sauce for vegetables and baked potatoes; macaroni and cheese; scalloped potatoes; enchilada sauce.
Melt butter and a splash of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. The oil keeps the butter from burning, so don't skip it.
Sprinkle cayenne, salt, pepper to taste and stir into the boiling butter.
Add gluten-free flour to the boiling butter and stir until toasted light brown. I like King Arthur's Gluten-free Baking Mix, but other brands, or puro rice flour, work as well.
For chowder and cream sauces, use milk or half-and-half as the liquid. Gradually add liquid to the roux, stir and cook until thickened.
A thick paste forms at the first drops of milk. Stir vigorously as you slowly add all the liquid and the sauce becomes soupy. Stir from the bottom of the pan to ensure good results.
Lower the flame and stir frequently but not constantly. You can do some prep work like setting the table in-between stirrings.
In five or ten minutes the sauce will thicken until it coats the side of the pan and your whisk. Judge viscosity by eye and coating action. It should be thick enough to hold a whorl for a moment.
Stir cubed or grated cheese into the slightly thickened roux sauce. Keep stirring until all the cheese melts. The sauce continues to thicken, both from the queso and the gluten-free flour.
Combine Everything Into the Papas:
Stir in the can of creamed corn.
Stir the cheese sauce into the papa-onion-scallop broth.
Bring to a gentle boil.
Garnish with a sprig of cilantro or parsley, or a dusting of cayenne powder or coarsely ground black pepper.
This recipe serves four, or two with leftovers for a second meal. A hearty chowder makes the perfect meal after a cold day outside turning the earth or sweeping leaves.
Next Week At La Bloga-Tuesday:
The Ten Best Poems of 2015 from La Bloga On-line Floricanto.