I am obsessed with Martha Stewart. As someone who develops recipes for a living and lowkey lives to garden (and cook for my friends), she's a true hero of mine...but even our heroes are capable of missteps every now and then. Enter: this simple salmon chowder that the internet has found perplexing for a variety of reasons.
At first glance, it looks stunning! Hand me a spoon, and I'll happily dive in. But let's take a peek at the caption, shall we?
There's not a whole lot of deconstruction necessary here beyond the fact that, yes, Martha Stewart is inexplicably suggesting that this soup — made with chunks of fish and whole basil leaves, plus a "light broth" made from heavy cream and clam juice is somehow kid-friendly. Naturally, it didn't take long for the people of Instagram to chime in with their two cents.
I'm no child psychologist (or parent), but I'd have to agree with this person.
And for my personal favorite take — this.
Do children in Martha's world actually slurp up clam broth by the spoonful? Or did her social media manager post this as a prank? I have no clue — but there's another glaringly obvious issue with this soup that I, quite frankly, found even more puzzling than the controversial caption: the corn. We've got big ol' corn cobs floating around in boiling hot fish stew, folks, that you're apparently supposed to eat with...your hands? The world's biggest soup spoon? IDK, but I'm not the only one who noticed.
To dig in further, I looked at the actual recipe for Martha's Salmon-and-Corn Chowder (which appears to be from a September 2017 issue of Martha Stewart Living), and I realized that I just so happened to have every ingredient in my kitchen. Yes, even clam juice — drag me if you must. Since I'm physically incapable of not testing every questionable celebrity recipe I come across, I decided to give this one a go. And you know what? This recipe genuinely surprised me.
The ingredients are really simple (refreshingly simple, even), and like many of Martha's recipes, this one prioritizes straightforward, seasonal ingredients in lieu of hoards of spices and flavor boosters. I should mention that here in New York, it's not quite corn season yet — that'll come in August — but it's still abundant at every grocery store around me.
First, I melted some butter in a large skillet, added some chopped onion, seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper, and let it sweat until perfectly translucent.
Once the onions had softened, I added flour to the mix. This effectively created a roux, which helped thicken up the stew a little bit later.
Once the floury onions started to turn golden brown, I added the classic favorite of small children, clam juice (or clam broth, they're the exact same thing), along with some water and the diced potatoes.
I let everything simmer together until the potatoes were fork-tender, which took about 10 minutes. While I waited, I cut the salmon filet into bite-sized chunks and attempted the very divisive task of chopping up the corn into "one-inch rounds."
Folks, I'm gonna say this the only way I know how: DO NOT FOLLOW THIS DIRECTION. Beyond making the corn nearly impossible to eat once it's served — which we'll get into shortly — it's also incredibly dangerous. I keep my knives razor-sharp, and even then I nearly slipped and sliced my whole hand off due to the corn cobs being so difficult to cut through.
With all of my limbs somehow still intact (thank god), I added the salmon and Chaos Corn to my skillet and let it all simmer, covered, for just a few minutes.
Once the salmon was cooked through and the corn was "crisp tender," I added in the heavy cream and sliced basil, seasoned it with a little more salt and pepper, and we were all finished — in just under 30 minutes, I might add. Corn aside, pretty darn impressive.
I ladled some into a bowl for myself and garnished with some cracked black pepper and some whole basil leaves, as suggested. I even addled a drizzle of some basil oil I found lying around (remember, I'm the kind of person who keeps clam juice in his pantry), which was a 10/10 decision.
THE VERDICT: Let's address the two elephants in the room. As everyone on the internet already knew deep down in their souls, no, there is absolutely no way a child would eat this, let alone "spoon this stew up." For all the adults out there, rest assured that the clam juice ends up tasting really mild and only offers a slight note of brininess, but there's no way in hell kids would eat it. As for Elephant #2 — the corn — it's also a hard no from me.
Do the whole chunks of corn photograph really nicely? Absolutely. Are they also a full nightmare to eat? Sadly, yes, though I guess that's not at all shocking. To me, it feels like a nod to a low-country boil, but the Instagram-worthy presentation just isn't worth the hassle of having to carefully chew the kernels off the tiny cobs or worth the risk of slicing off a finger or two while you prep 'em. You could eat them with a spoon and likely splatter broth all over yourself (trust me on this one), or you can grab 'em with your hands and fully burn your fingers. The choice is yours, and both options are grim.
Instead, here's my suggestion: Cut the kernels off the cob before you even add them to the broth, then snap each corn cob in half and allow them to simmer with the clam broth and potatoes. All the sweet, corny goodness will infuse into the broth as it cooks, which will make the end results even tastier — just be sure to remove and discard the halved corn cobs before serving.
If you've tried Martha Stewart's Salmon-and-Corn Chowder for yourself, let me know what you thought of it in the comments below.
And if for some wild reason you did cook this for a child and they enjoyed it, I must know about it.