Right about now, the thermometer reads 7 degrees, with a wind-chill factor of –18*!. We are in a deep freeze and this is day number 6 of it. Brrrrr! What’s a body to do to keep warm? First and foremost, stay indoors. If that’s not possible dress in multiple layers, covering ears, nose and fingertips.
What I love to do in this kind of weather is Make Soup. There is something soothing and warming just in making it, and then simmering away, it promises more warmth and comfort later when you eat it. Since I live in the Northeast, and this area is well known for its creamy New England style clam chowder, what I am making today is a variation of it called Fish Chowder (chowda, as we say).
New England style chowder is a cream or milk based soup that always contains potatoes, onions, and clams or other kinds of seafood. You can make it rich and thick using cream, or lighten it up with light cream or milk. I usually make mine with milk to reduce some of the fat, so that I can use bacon and its drippings for additional flavor and to sauté the onions and celery. You may have heard of another kind of chowder that is popular here. It is a clear broth soup served mostly in Rhode Island and parts of southeastern Connecticut. Rhode Island style chowder contains potatoes, clams, onions, lot of seasonings and a clear broth made from clam juice. Everyone seems to have their favorite kind and their own way of making it, believing that theirs is the best.
My recipe is one that I have had for a long time and I think it came from a community cookbook put out by one of the churches in the area. This version is easy to make and we all love it. Top each serving with some crisp bacon bits and a shake or two of hot sauce to add a little spice.
CREAMY FISH CHOWDER
SERVINGS: about 8
- 3 strips of bacon
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large or 2 medium stalks celery
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 pounds cod or other firm white fish, cut into 1/2″ pieces***
- 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, or to taste
- salt to taste
- ground black pepper
- 1 ( 8 0z.) bottle clam juice
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups cream, light cream or milk
***I use 1 pound cod or other white fish and then add a can of clams with their juice, some bay scallops and small-medium shrimp to make the other pound of fish.
1. In a skillet, cook the bacon crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Set aside till serving.
2. In a large soup pot melt the butter and olive oil, add bacon drippings. Add the chopped onion and celery. Sauté until tender.
3. Add chicken stock and potatoes; simmer for about 10 minutes.
4. Add the fish, and simmer another 10 minutes.
5. Season to taste with the Old Bay, salt and pepper. Mix together the clam juice and flour till smooth. Stir into the soup. Add the cream or milk and heat but do not boil. When heated through, serve in bowls, topped with bacon bits. Shake on a dash of hot sauce if you like a little spiciness.
Enjoy a bowl of hearty hot chowder and stay warm, everyone.