Serves 4

3 slices thick sliced smoked bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups leeks, white and light- green parts, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/3 cup dry white vermouth or white wine
3 cups fish, chicken or vegetable stock
3/4-pound fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch rounds or quarters
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 cup or so crème fraîche
12 ounces skinned and boned hot smoked salmon fillet, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 small bunch spinach, separated into leaves with large stems removed
Garnish with a drizzle of smoked olive oil, optional*


In a heavy pot over medium-high heat, brown bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

Spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pot. Add butter and let melt. Add leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until leeks are soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in paprika and vermouth and simmer until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. cook 1 minute. Stir in stock, 1 cup water, potatoes and fennel and cook until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in crème fraîche until smooth. Add fish and cook until just opaque, 2 to 4 minutes. Use a fork to flake fish into large pieces if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Divide spinach in the bottoms of warmed bowls and ladle soup over. Sprinkle on reserved bacon and serve immediately.

*Smoked olive oil is available from and from Italian sources online.

Chef John Ash

Many refer to Chef John Ash as the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine”. In 1980 he opened his namesake restaurant, John Ash & Company, in Santa Rosa, CA. which gained international acclaim and still is critically applauded.

He has co-hosted a radio show for 32 years in Northern California. He also hosted two shows on the Food Network. John is an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in the Napa Valley. John has consulted with a broad range of clients including Sonoma Cutrer Winery, Del Monte Foods, Viking River Cruises and others.

In 2008 John was voted “Cooking School Teacher of the Year” by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. John is a champion of sustainable food issues, having served for several years on the Board of the Chef’s Collaborative, as well the Board of Seafood Watch, an educational initiative of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

John has written 5 books and is a two-time James Beard Award winner. Culinary Birds won a 2014 James Beard award and John Ash Cooking One-on-One won in 2005. He has authored two other books: From the Earth to the Table and American Game Cooking. The former was awarded the IACP Julia Child Cookbook of the Year. His latest book Cooking Wild was published in summer of 2016 by Running Press. He writes occasionally for culinary magazines such as Fine Cooking and Eating Well and contributes regularly to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

John was also honored in 2014 by the Monterey Bay Aquarium as “Sustainable Seafood Educator of the Year”. He was recently inducted into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers for his love and work with cheese.