A cold snap has fallen on Chignik Lake. Middle March, and once again our our world in this remote corner of Alaska is blanketed in snow. This morning we woke to find our lake glassed off with ice, the flocks of Goldeneyes and Scaup that had gathered in the view out our window gone to find open water. Now and then our resident family of otters appears on the ice to take advantage of new fishing opportunities in mid-lake openings, happy to bask in the late morning sunshine. The silver bright salmon of last autumn have long since spawned and died.
As recently as January there were still a few late-run salmon clinging to life in feeder streams. Even those fish are gone by now, returned to gravel stream beds, becoming nutrients in the web of life their offspring will soon depend upon. Even the char have disappeared, huddled together somewhere in deep water, waiting for spring.
March is a month for tying flies and sorting through gear, a month for evening games of Scrabble and tucking into a good book. March is a month when the next generation of salmon are stirring in their redds and you imagine those tiny fish and even though the water is covered with fresh ice, you think to yourself, “Spring is coming.”
March is a good time to make big pots of soups and big plans for summer. This soup is one of our favorites. I prepared the salmon sausage without using eggs and I added chorizo to give it some zip. I seasoned the sausage with an Italian herb blend and added additional ground fennel, which came through nicely. It’s soup, so experiment with ingredients to make it your own.
White Bean & Butternut Salmon Sausage Soup
- 6 cups white beans (3 16oz cans)
- 1 butternut squash, roasted or steamed until tender, rind removed, cut into cubes (or used canned pumpkin or squash)
- 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
- 1 shallot, sliced thin (or substitute a small sweet onion)
- 3 cups chicken broth (enough broth to thin the bean & squash mixture)
- 1 or 2 lbs salmon sausage (see recipe here). Or substitute any sausage.
- sea salt
- 1 tablespoon of a favorite spicy mix featuring powdered chipotle (See “Jack’s”)
- olive oil
- Add a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil to a frying pan and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Using a stick blender, food processor or conventional blender, purée the beans, squash, garlic and shallots, adding chicken broth as you do this to create a thick soup.
- Add the purée to a large pot. Add additional chicken broth to achieve desired consistency. Stir in seasonings, bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes. Taste to determine how much salt is needed and if additional seasoning is required.
- Add the salmon sausage and gently stir in. Allow to simmer for a few more minutes.
- Ladle into serving bowls, drizzle with a favorite olive oil, and serve piping hot.
*A River Never Sleeps, Roderick Haig-Brown, 1946