12 April 2013

Here fishy-fishy: The splendor of chowda'

Hey there! Rough week battling insomnia and trying to get over the fact that spring is STILL not here. But I sure am glad that the weekend IS here! 

What's on the agenda for this weekend? Lots of catching up on sleep for sure. I also have a long run and yard work planned... if it's not snowing. If the weather is lousy, we're going to check out a new wine bar, The Thirsty Owl, and have lunch in Saratoga Springs. Hmmm, maybe this weather isn't really anything to complain about after all. I'd much prefer to spend a Saturday sipping wine than running!

Last weekend, the Sailor and I went to dinner at a local place we frequent, and I was raving about the delicious New England clam chowder. Insensitive, thoughtless, and unkind considering the fact that the Sailor has a shell fish allergy, so he never is able to enjoy the belly-warming, creamy deliciousness of chowda'.

"A warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt." -Herman Melville Moby Dick

courtesy of foodgawker

So to make up for all of my drooling and the Sailor's disappointment at not getting even a little taste of the chowder last weekend, I put together a recipe for New England Fish Chowder from Epicurious -- It was out-of-this-world!

Admittedly however the chowder I made didn't hold a candle to the fish chowder Big T and I enjoyed at a little pub in Dingle on our first trip to Ireland in 1996...That chowder was served with a huge hunk of warm brown bread  and real cream butter in an authentic pub with beautiful dark wood and low ceilings. I'm convinced that ambiance contributes to flavor. Sadly enough, I can't remember the name of the place with the best chowder ever, but I will get back there someday. Dingle is one of my favorite places on Earth.

Slea Head Drive

Main Street

Without further ado....The recipe...

New England Fish Chowder

4 ounces meaty salt pork, rind removed and cut into 1/3-inch dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions (14 ounces), cut into 3/4-inch dice
6 to 8 sprigs fresh summer savory or thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon)
2 dried bay leaves
2 pounds Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/3-inch thick
5 cups Strong Fish Stock ,Traditional Fish Stock ,Chicken Stock , or water (as a last resort)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds skinless haddock or cod fillets, preferably over 1 inch thick (I used 1 lb haddock, 1 lb cod, and 1/2 lb salmon)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or up to 2 cups if desired)

For garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives


1. Heat a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot over low heat and add the diced salt pork. 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, 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 and 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. Warm the cracklings in a low oven (200 °F) for a few minutes.
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 cracklings over the individual servings and finish each with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and minced chives.
Strong Fish Stock made with the heads and bones from the cod or haddock you buy for chowder is by far the best choice for this recipe. I urge you to make it, but if you can’t, there are alternatives listed in the recipe.

For equipment, you will need a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot with a lid, a slotted spoon, a wooden spoon, and a ladle.

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