Seafood- Lesson 3: Mussel & Prawn Chowder

This post is quite late late as my husband and I had an extra, extra long weekend across the other side of Australia, in Perth, where I cooked, for his mothers 70th birthday party for group of 30 friends and family. So…I am only now getting to share with you what we did in the last week of my ‘official’ last lesson of 2018. I say ‘official’ because I need to do a make-up class of Seafood Lesson One given I missed it whilst in hospital. I can’t believe my first year at culinary school is almost at a close, it only seems like yesterday that I first put on my chefs whites (which I still get a buzz when I put on!). The year finishes with three review assessments, also known as Holistic Menus, in which I need to cook a menu of 3- 4 dishes demonstrating my competence in the techniques learned in second semester. I am actually writing this post after completing the first assessment, in which I am pleased to say I was found competent. Lesson Three was a Trio of Salmon, Fish and Fennel Pie, Prawn Cutlets with Tartare Sauce & Mussel & Prawn Chowder (recipe below).


The first task was to prepare the Trio of Salmon, which were Sous Vide, Gravlax and Smoked. For the Sous Vide, the pre-prepared salmon fillet, herbs and butter were placed in a bag which was vacuum sealed and placed in a water bath at 45 degree celsius for 30 minutes. For the Gravlax, the flesh of the salmon was covered with 150g rock salt, 150g sugar and some dill. It was wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, weighted down and left to cure for 4 hours. The dry smoked salmon was prepared by curing it in a 50/50 mix of rock salt and sugar for an hour before smoking over wood chips. It is interesting to see the change in texture in the fish from the different applications. For me, sous vide is the winner, the flesh is moist and tender and there is an integrity to the flavour. It is such a versatile cooking method and has become one of my favourite ways to prepare proteins at home. The Trio of Salmon was served with a simple crunchy salad of red onion, apple, reddish, parsley and horseradish with a dressing of honey, mustard & white wine vinegar.


Salmon vacuum sealed and ready for sous vide



Salmon three ways with crunchy salad

This class required a lot of preparation and chopping but it was so much fun. Next up was getting the base sauce for the Fish and Fennel pies done. The base comprised of a white roux to which sweated large dice of leek & fennel was added. The sour cream, mustard, chopped dill and lemon zest was then added, followed by the fish. The fish needs to be a firm one & the sauce needs to be quite thick. As the fish cooked in the sauce the pastry lids were prepared, complete with fish motif 🐠. In class the fish pies were made in foil tart tins but at home they could be made in ramekins, which would look very nice, especially with such pretty fishy lids!


Preparation done and ready to start cooking


Baked Fish pies

Whilst the chowder cooked, we prepped and cooked the prawn cutlets…this is very straight forward and needs no explanation except to say, always, always, always de-vein the prawns. As we butterflied ours, removing the vein was easy but chef also showed us a good ‘chefs hack’ on using a bamboo skewer (or tooth pick) to remove the vein which keeps the whole prawn in tact…( I love tricks).


Prawn cutlets with Tartare Sauce

A chowder always has a base of leek and potato, and this one was particularly tasty. Interestingly, Chef substituted a light chicken stock for the fish stock listed in the recipe, this made it less ‘fishy’ and more subtle in flavour (love Chef Michael – he knows his stuff!). Under his guidance we left the prawns whole….as… who doesn’t like to get a whole prawn in a soup? Chef also changed the recipe in other ways, omitting the garlic and basil, & the end product was not only very attractive, it was also delicious and will be on high rotation in my kitchen.



Mussel and Prawn Chowder

This post might be my last for 2018 from a ‘cooking school’ adventure perspective….I’ll see how the make-up class goes. As far as documenting the assessments, I doubt that I want to divert my attention from the task/s at hand so as to snap photos as I go. At the beginning of the assessment, Chef tells us when each dish needs to be presented. But (oops shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘but’), as the first assessment is behind me, I can tell you that at 10.30 am I served Eggs Benedict (the hollandaise was the best I have ever made ☺️), at 11.30 am served crispy pan fried Chicken Supreme with pan roasted potatoes and a salad (a chicken was broken down for the Chicken Supreme and a stock was made from the wings, legs and carcass – to be used in the next assessment). Finally at 12 noon I served a wedge of Polenta Cake with Lemon Syrup garnished with julienned lemon zest.

At the beginning of the year I was Kathryn to the chef’s under which I was learning, at the end of the year I am now called ‘chef’ by the other chef’s. I am not fooling myself, there is still such a long way to go but I can honestly say that next to motherhood, this is the most satisfying journey I have consciously embarked on….. it’s never too late to start.

Bon Appetit

Kathryn 💙👩‍🍳

About kathryninthekitchen

I find joy in all aspects of food and cooking; reading about it, enjoying the offerings of great restaurants and cafe’s, sourcing beautiful produce & transforming it into delicious meals to share with the people I care about. I quite easily lose track of time when I am engaged in my favourite pastime. I have always dreamt of one day training as a cook and 2018 is the year that journey begins. I am excited I have the opportunity to follow my passion and grateful for the support of my family and friends. I hope you enjoy my journey with me as well as other food related detours.
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15 Responses to Seafood- Lesson 3: Mussel & Prawn Chowder

  1. chef mimi says:

    I’m so glad you were found competent! Is that both physically and mentally?!!! Love those fish pies. Well, you’re the perfect person to prepare a meal for 30 people. Yikes!

    • kathryninthekitchen says:

      Me too Mimi…haha….Jury’s out on the mental aspect 😂. The fish pies were fun to make and make a pretty dish to serve with salad and chips, which is how I served them at home recently.

  2. Aly says:

    Bravo! First year down ☺☺

  3. Ron says:

    Congratulations Chef Kathryn! Enjoyed the class today as we love seafood. I’ve not jumped into the Sous Vide arena yet, but keep hearing how good salmon is that prepared in that fashion. Might just have but that on my Christmas list. Gravlax, as I’m sure you know, is a very important part of Swedish food culture. We use a similar curing mix, except we toss in a bit of gin as well.
    The salmon trio would have been my favorite, but the chowder and pies looked top shelf as well. I’m looking forward to year two.

    • kathryninthekitchen says:

      Dear Ron…Thank you for your encouragement! I still have a long way to go, but am thrilled that I have started down this path. I love the sound of gin in the Gravlax and will be using that tip! I look forward to hearing all about your Christmas spread.

      • Ron says:

        Kathryn, I had to jump back in and let you know that Santa was kind and I’m now the proud owner of a sous vide machine. My second sous vide cook was salmon prepared as you did above. It was marvelous, perhaps the best salmon we’ve ever had. We served it over rice with a lemon dill sauce.
        So now that I’m confident at sous vide salmon, we have gravlax (with gin) curing in the fridge and some lovely smoked salmon from our local smokehouse. Which means your “Salmon three ways with crunchy salad” will start our new years eve dinner. Thanks for teaching me…

      • kathryninthekitchen says:

        Happy New Year Ron. You are a delight and I do enjoy your posts. See you on the flip side 🥳

  4. Congratulations on successfully completing your first assessment! You must be so proud and your family and friends must have been thrilled to have you cooking for them with your new-found expertise. I like the idea of salmon three ways and love your presentation of that dish.

    • kathryninthekitchen says:

      Thank you so much…. I am very grateful that I was able to take the opportunity and was so supported by my family and friends 😊

  5. So nice to “meet” you Kathryn. I use a similar technique with crayfish, but use the feeler to grab the vein. Love the look of your fish pies 🙂

  6. Your seafood class sounds wonderful…I especially like the little seafood pies. Happy New Year!

    • kathryninthekitchen says:

      Thanks Karen – Happy New Year to you too….I love the New Year…so many possibilities 😊

  7. Congratulations on passing your assignments! As an absolute fish lover, I enjoyed all these recipes, and I absolutely LOVE all the attention to the salmon. I have a lovely piece of fresh Atlantic salmon I’m cooking for supper tonight, and I now I”m thinking I’d love to make a fish and fennel pie (I absolutely love salmon and fennel and leeks), especially if I can decorate it so beautifully! You are on a remarkable journey!

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