(By Dave Adler, Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery)
It’s autumn in Canada. The kids are back in school, there’s a chill in the air, and there’s a pile of wood in the driveway waiting to be stacked. At this time of year my BBQ is securely lashed to the railing, and I do most of my cooking inside. This is the time of year to go inside, relax, and cook a chowder for friends. A chowder’s not something you can rush. If you try, it’ll come out all wrong. There’s something special about a slow chowder. And there’s something especially special about a Slow Fish Chowder.
So slow down, relax, pour yourself a drink or make a cup of tea, and make yourself a slow, fish chowder. There are lots of ways to do it. Here’s one.
Slow Fish Chowder
- 4 cups of your delicious fish stock (see recipe below)
- About ¼ cup butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- About ½ cup white flour
- 2-3 potatoes, washed, peeled (or not, if you want), cut into ½” cubes
- 4-5 lbs of Good, Clean & Fair fish (fillets, bones removed)
- 1 can evaporated milk
- About 2 cups of milk (2%, whole, or cream)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Paprika & Parsley to garnish (optional but highly recommended)
In a large heavy pot, slowly heat the butter over low heat. If you scald the butter, you’re off to a bad start. Add the onions and cook them, slowly, until translucent (but not browned). Make sure your stock is ready (and hot). Sprinkle the flour about a tablespoon at a time into the butter and onions while stirring constantly. The amount of flour you add will determine how thick the chowder is in the end. If you want a thick chowder, use all of the flour. If you prefer your chowder on the thin side, only use a couple of tablespoons. If the mixture gets too dry, add some more butter – you can never have too much butter. Once you finish adding the flour, cook (while stirring) for another 3 minutes or so, until the mixture begins to brown.
Slowly add the stock a bit at a time while scraping up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. The mixture should thicken right away. Once your have added about half of the stock and nothing is left stuck to the bottom, add the potatoes. Then add enough stock to cover the potatoes. Stir, and toss in some crushed black pepper.
Pour yourself another drink, you’ve got this. Continue to cook over low heat until the potatoes are fully cooked, stirring frequently (you don’t want anything to stick to the bottom and burn). This should take about 20-25 minutes but don’t even think about rushing the potatoes – they have to be completely done before you continue. Once you had the milk, the chowder won’t get hot enough to cook the potatoes any further, so unless you and your dinner guests are really into not-cooked potatoes, don’t rush it.
You’re in the home stretch. Once the potatoes are tender, add the milk (both the evaporated milk and the 2% milk or cream). Give it a stir, then add the fish. You don’t have to cut up the fish fillets, just lay them in the pot, and make sure they are covered by the liquid. Cook gently (uncovered) on low heat, stirring slowly every once in a while. Don’t you dare let it boil. If it does, the milk will curdle and your chowder will be wrecked. When the fish starts to flake and break apart, your chowder is done.
Remove from heat, add salt to taste, and serve. Garnish with chopped parsley, paprika and maybe some more pepper.
Then share it with family and friends and enjoy. Slowly.
Fish stock (thanks to Chef Chris Velden at the Flying Apron Cookery for sharing this recipe)
- The head/nape/bones of a white fish like haddock, cod or hake*
- Carrots, celery, onions, leek, chopped (as much as you want!)
- Fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 3-4 sprigs of parsley
- 5 or 6 juniper berries
- 1-2 sprigs of dill
- A pinch of salt
Add all the ingredients to a large stock pot. Add cold water until ingredients are covered and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 30 mins, then shut heat off and let sit for another 30 mins. Strain stock with cheese cloth, and bam! You’re done your stock. If you’re not going to use the stock right away, let cool and then refrigerate or freeze
*the fillets from this fish will be used in the chowder. If you don’t know how to fillet a fish, then you should thank cod for YouTube.
If you don’t have a whole fish, and you don’t happen to have a stash of broth in your freezer, you can always use the tips of fillets and some clam juice to make a salty fishy broth that will do in a pinch.