The Chef Aquatic

East Coast transplant Ken Norris brings his seafood know-how to Northwest shores.

By Benjamin Tepler September 21, 2011 Published in the October 2011 issue of Portland Monthly

Dockside chowder qxphgd

WHEN CHEF Ken Norris packed his knives for Portland and left behind a long, successful culinary career in New York, he had one thing in mind: seafood. It’s been a lifelong fascination. “I started fishing as soon as I could hold a pole,” he says. When he was tall enough to work a kitchen counter, he applied for a job at New York’s famed Daniel and immediately became the go-to fish guy in chef Daniel Boulud’s highly trained battalion. After more than a decade of filleting and deboning his way through some of Manhattan’s best restaurants (most recently, Norris ran the kitchen at superstar Marcus Samuelsson’s August in the West Village), he turned his attention to Portland—and the city’s seafood-restaurant drought.

As he sketches plans for Riffle NW, his coast-to-table restaurant set to open later this year in Northwest Portland, Norris is casting out lines for local fishermen and coastal foragers. Meanwhile, he’s polishing old ideas and fishing for new ones. This simple chowder has been a standby in Norris’s repertoire for years. It’s a classic: delicious with any Oregon whitefish and perfect for weathering the autumn chill.

Dockside Chowder

(Serves 6–8) 

  • ½ lb bacon, diced
  • ½ cup leeks, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup celery, diced
  • ½ cup onions, diced
  • 2 quarts clam stock or juice
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • ½ lb firm-fleshed whitefish fillets (such as halibut), deboned and cut into bite-size pieces
  • ½ lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 lb clams, scrubbed
  • 1 lb mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(1) ADD bacon to a 6-quart stockpot and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. (2) ADD leeks, celery, and onions, and cook gently until translucent but not browned, about 6 minutes. (3) ADD clam stock, raise heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. (4) ADD potatoes and continue to cook for 10 minutes. (5) REDUCE heat to medium and add fish fillets, shrimp, clams, and mussels. (6) COOK until clams and mussels start to open, about 3 minutes, and discard any that don’t open. (7) FINISH by quickly stirring in heavy cream. (8) SEASON to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with brioche tarragon croutons.*

*Brioche Tarragon Croutons 

  • 8 slices brioche bread, ¾ inch thick
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

(1) HEAT the oven to 350 degrees. (2) CUT off the crusts and dice into ¾-inch pieces. (3) PLACE croutons on a sheet pan, and toss them with olive oil, tarragon, salt, and pepper. (4) BAKE for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing once, until they’re nicely browned on all sides.(5) COOL to room temperature.

Filed under
Show Comments