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Smoked Salmon Chowder

Smoked salmon is one of the quintessential dishes of the northwest. Even so, there are so many styles of smoked salmon that it’s almost a genre in itself. My first introduction was to salmon smoked by a college roommate in his Little Chief Smoker which sat on the front porch. He wasn’t the most attentive cook so the result was dry, tough and chewy. Over the next few years I was introduced to much better renditions that ranged from spicy, dry salmon strips to whole salmon sides smoke roasted over open flames that had a slight crust but was sweet and creamy inside. After college I made a serious study in the art of smoking salmon, traveling throughout the Northwest, sampling everything I could and talking to everyone who was willing.  Over time, I developed my own hybrid style that is the blueprint for what we do today. That will be the subject of other posts.

About this Recipe

This is the perfect comfort food to help you get through the dark, damp winters in Oregon. You just need the chowder, a cozy fire and some Ribbon Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir to chase away the blahs and drive the chill from your bones. A golden retriever curled up around your feet helps, too. The recipe works equally well with hot or cold-smoked salmon — even salmon on the drier side will soften while the potatoes simmer. It also freezes well. I’ll often make a double batch and save half for the freezer before adding the cream. The  next dreary day just thaw the soup base, bring it to a simmer and add the cream and herbs before serving.


  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon diced garlic
  • 4 stalks celery, peeled and diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and dices
  • 4 strips bacon, cut in 1/2 inch pieces and blanched (optional)
  • 8 ounces smoked salmon
  • 4 cups clam juice or fish stock
  • 2 large (or 4 small) potatoes, diced
  • 2 cups cream or 1/2 and 1/2
  • Fresh herbs (parsley, dill, thyme, et al) diced for garnish

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion, celery, garlic, carrots and blanched bacon, if desired. Saute until the onion softens. Crumble or cut the smoked salmon into 1/2-inch pieces making sure to remove any bones or skin, and add to the sauteed vegetables. When the salmon is warmed through and tender, add the clam juice or fish stock and the diced potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add the cream and heat through before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs. Serve with crusty sourdough bread


Yields four hearty portions.

Ready In:

1 hour; 30 minutes active