Food By Mom -- Fish Chowder

This week the recipe isn't from me, but from my daughter Courtney. So I suppose the title should read Food By Mom's Daughter. Now when she was a teenager, Courtney gave no sign that she would become a great cook. I couldn't get her to agree to cook a meal but I hoped that when she was on her own, her interest would grow. And indeed it has and she is now a superb cook -- does a mother proud, I say!

Courtney’s New England Fish Chowder


6 oz good quality bacon

1 tablespoon butter 

4 tablespoons flour

2 medium onions, cut into 3/4-inch dice 

6 to 8 sprigs fresh summer savory or thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon); or 1 tsp. dried thyme 

2 dried bay leaves 

2 pounds all-purpose potatoes such as Yukon gold, peeled and diced

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or fish stock if you prefer.)

1 cup clam juice

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper 

2-3 pounds skinless haddock or cod fillets (as thick as you can get them), pin bones removed; cut into large chunks

1 1/2 cups heavy cream 

2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley leaves 

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives 


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 the pork is a crisp golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cracklings to a small ovenproof dish; reserve. Drain out all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Return pot to heat.

Add the butter, onions, savory or thyme, and bay leaves to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions have softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle flour evenly over onions. Cook for another minute. 

Add the potatoes and stock. If the stock doesn't cover the potatoes, add a little water. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and boil the potatoes vigorously until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center, about 10 minutes. If the stock hasn't thickened slightly, smash a few of the potato slices against the side of the pot and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer. 

Reduce the heat to low, taste and season assertively with salt and pepper (you want to almost over season at this point in order to avoid having to stir once the fish is added). Add the fish fillets and cook over a low heat until the fish is almost done, 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish will finish cooking during this time). 

Gently stir in the cream, fresh herbs, and taste for salt and pepper. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate (only 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. 

© Cheryl Fuller, 2007. All  rights reserved.