TOON LINK - Great Sea Bass Chowder
From the beginning of this project, I had a pretty good idea of what to make for Toon Link. "Toon Link" is the name for a specific incarnation of Link who made his debut in the GameCube classic (and one of my all-time favourite games), The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker! So naturally, I wanted to make a dish based on the most prominent food item in Wind Waker... Elixir Soup! When he sets out on his seafaring journeys, Link's Grandma gives him some of her homemade soup in a cute bottle to help remind him of home. This soup not only fully heals Link's health and magic, but also doubles his strength - and Grandma was so generous as to include two helpings in each bottle! This soup is said to be his favourite meal, so making a soup for Toon Link's dish was an obvious pick.
The specific variety of soup is not stated in-game, and its appearance is quite generic: it’s a bottle of yellow-ish soup with green flecks on top. I assume it is intended to be a simple nourishing broth - but since my goal is to create a dish inspired by the character and the game, and not to recreate this specific dish, I mainly just used Elixir Soup as a jumping-off point. When deciding what specific variety of soup to make, I figured chowder would be appropriate given the maritime setting of Wind Waker! And no, I am not picking a side in the chowder war: my not-so-authentic recipe contains both tomato and cream, to match the nice yellow-orange color of Grandma’s soup. I even garnished it with parsley to further match the in-game appearance.
Instead of the traditional clam chowder, I decided to make a fish chowder using sea bass - or should I say, “Great Sea” bass! The Great Sea is home to plenty of sea life, including the peculiar fishmen, who help Link on his journey by filling out his seafaring map. I’m not sure if they’d approve of this recipe!
(You can substitute the sea bass for any other delicate white fish such as tilapia, snapper, grouper, pollock, or cod.)
I seasoned my chowder with a blend of spices to achieve the iconic flavour profile of Old Bay seasoning. The soup also includes some salty, smoky bacon – this is traditional for New England chowder, but also serves as a small nod to the pigs that are raised on Link’s home of Outset Island!
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp celery salt
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
⅛ tsp cayenne
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ cup white wine
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ cups clam juice or fish broth
1 ½ cups water
1-2 bay leaves
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
3-4 large yellow potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups corn kernels (canned or frozen)
2 sea bass fillets, cut into cubes
1-2 cups half-and-half cream
Hot sauce, for serving
Fresh parsley, chopped
In a medium-large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy and the fat has rendered out. Move to a paper towel lined bowl or plate with a slotted spoon, set aside.
Remove some of the bacon fat from the pot until about two tablespoons remain. Cook onion, celery, carrot, and pepper in the fat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and spices and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.
Add tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes, until deepened in color. Add white wine and lemon juice and deglaze, scraping up the fond from the bottom of the pot.
Add water and clam juice, bay leaves, potatoes, and corn. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add fish and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender and the fish is done cooking (it should be cooked through, but not falling apart). If the soup looks too thin, you can thicken it by mashing some of the potatoes into the broth.
Reduce heat to low and stir in cream, starting with 1 cup, until it reaches the color you desire (a deeper orange will be more flavorful, while lighter will be smoother and creamier).
Discard bay leaf. Top with chopped parsley, more black pepper, and hot sauce if desired. Serve with crusty bread on the side.