A steaming bowl of fish chowder, a thick slice of homemade bread slathered with good butter, and a big spoon. That’s all I need to make a meal that leaves me wanting more even after I’m stuffed to the gills (you see what I did there?). Chowder isn’t just for seafood. You can use fresh water fish, and it’s especially good if you’re using fish you’ve just caught while ice fishing. I stick with white fish and skip any that are oily. If you’d prefer to use ocean fish I suggest haddock, cod or pollock. Good fresh-water choices are cusk, yellow and white perch, and bass.
Mixing it Up
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Rather than tell you how to make fish stock let’s use Hank Shaw’s recipe. He makes great stock and it’s so similar to my recipe there’s no need for me to duplicate it.
You can exchange the butter for salt pork or bacon. Cut it into half-inch cubes and saute to release some of the fat before you add the onions to the pan.
I grew up with chowder made from canned milk instead of heavy cream, and now I sometimes use half ‘n half if I don’t have heavy cream. All three are good but I prefer cream.
Some folks add 1/2 cup of chopped celery when they saute the onions.
Chowder stores well in the refrigerator. Refrigerate leftovers immediately without letting the chowder cool to room temperature because of the dairy and fish.
This looks great served in bread bowls. Traditionally, it’s served with Saltines or Oyster crackers.
Fish Chowder - From Lake to Bowl
- 1/4 cup salted butter
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 4 cups water or fish stock
- 3 cups starchy potatoes washed and cut into bite-size pieces (Russet, Katahdin)
- 3 pounds fish cut into 1" cubes
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 T dried thyme
- 1 large bay leaf
- bacon bits garnish
- In an 8 quart pan, sauté the onion in the butter until translucent. Add the water and potatoes, and then simmer until the potatoes start to soften, about five minutes.
- Add the fish to the pan and simmer 5 minutes or until it flakes apart easily.
- Slowly pour in the heavy cream, stirring constantly. Add thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. When the chowder has warmed completely (do no simmer or boil), remove from heat.
- Allow chowder to sit 20 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and garnish with bacon bits before serving.