Notes: Use either soft, cold-smoked salmon (also called lox or Nova-style) or firmer, hot-smoked salmon (also called kippered), or offer both for an interesting mix. If preparing chowder through step 7 up to 1 day ahead, cool, cover, and chill; chill salmon, chives, and fennel sprigs separately. Reheat chowder, covered, over medium to medium-high heat, stirring often.
3 pounds leeks
2 heads fennel (each 3 in. at widest dimension; 2 1/2 to 3 lb. total)
3/4 cup thinly sliced chives
2 tablespoons butter
5 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth
1 dried bay leaf
3 pounds thin-skinned potatoes
1 pound thin-sliced smoked salmon (see notes)
5 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/8 teaspoon pepper
How to Make It
Trim and discard root ends and coarse tops from leeks. Cut leeks in half lengthwise and rinse under running water, flipping layers to flush out grit; drain, then thinly slice crosswise.
Rinse fennel. Trim off and discard root ends and stalks; reserve 2 or 3 sprigs of feathery green tops for garnish, and finely chop enough of the remaining feathery leaves to make 3 tablespoons (discard any remaining greens). In a bowl, mix chopped greens with chives; cover and chill. Chop fennel heads.
In a 6- to 8-quart pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add leeks and chopped fennel heads, cover, and stir occasionally until vegetables are very limp, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add broth and bay leaf to pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Scrub potatoes and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes.
Add potatoes to broth mixture and return to a simmer; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender when pierced, 15 to 20 minutes.
Cut salmon into strips 2 to 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide; put in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk milk, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Add to potato-broth mixture and stir over high heat until boiling, about 5 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Serve soup from pan, or pour into a tureen. Garnish with reserved fennel sprigs. Offer with smoked salmon and chive mixture to add to taste.