Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New England fish chowder

A happy congruence of events. Whole Foods had fresh locally caught haddock fillets on special, and my mother was visiting from landlocked Austin. What quintessential New England food should I serve? The answer, of course, was chowdah.

New England fish chowder
(Adapted from epicurious.com. See original recipe here.)
1/4 pounds bacon
2 TB unsalted butter
2 medium onions, diced
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
2 bay leaves
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/3 inch thick
4.5 cups chicken broth
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2.5 lbs skinless haddock fillets
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream

1. Heat a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot over low heat and add the bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a dish, leaving the fat in the pot, and reserve until later.

2. Add the butter, onions, savory or thyme, and bay leaves to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until the onions are softened but not browned.

3. Add the potatoes and stock. If the stock doesn’t cover the potatoes, add just enough water to cover them. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, cover, and cook the potatoes vigorously for about 10 minutes, until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center. If the stock hasn’t thickened lightly, smash a few of the potato slices against the side of the pot and cook for a minute or two longer to release their starch. Reduce the heat to low and season assertively with salt and pepper (you want to almost overseason the chowder at this point to avoid having to stir it much once the fish is added). Add the fish fillets and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish will finish cooking during this time).

4. Gently stir in the cream and taste for salt and pepper. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit for up to an hour at room temperature, allowing the flavors to meld.

5. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil.

6. Use a slotted spoon to mound the chunks of fish, the onions, and potatoes in the center of large soup plates or shallow bowls, and ladle the creamy broth around. Scatter the bacon over the individual servings.

I was supposed to finish the dish with sprinklings of chopped parsley and minced chives, but reality intervened. We paired the chowder with grilled asparagus, grilled corn on the cob, and baguettes. New England delicious!

New England Fish Chowder on FoodistaNew England Fish Chowder


  1. What a lovely dish. I came across your blog from the foodie blog roll and if you wont mind I'd love to guide Foodista readers to this post.Just add the foodista widget to the end of this post and it's all set, Thanks!

  2. Of course, you know its 'chowda' by now. Interesting that you use chicken broth. I always had fish heads and tails with celery and Old Bay for the base. I also don't use pork, but butter. Braise the potatoes and onions (corn for corn chowda). I'm prone to shallats now, however, whatever the garden provides. I don't add the cream in the pot, but rather individual dishes, at the bottom or top (had one son insisted the top was better), and let each person stir their own in. Sometimes, we ate it without milk, just some grated romano...or whatever on the top. Served with corn bread. I don't remember a recipe, it just is in my head somewhere. I hope that you will have salmon and green peas for July 4th, or fiddle heads (but it might be too late). Another tradition I remember.

  3. The original recipe calls for fish stock, but we didn't have any. The chicken broth was good, but I'm sure the fish stock is even better. I'm looking forward to getting my kitchen back (after the remodel) and doing the chowda right with homemade fish stock. Mmm...corn chowda. I hope my kitchen is ready before corn is out of season.


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