Chowder ventures beyond the clam in a delicious adaptation of traditional fisherman’s fare.
In the introduction to her new book Chowderland, author Brooke Dojny writes that the origins of chowder are “shrouded in mystery.”
Mysterious roots aside, the fish stew thickened with biscuits that used to feed fishermen in early New England and Nova Scotia has evolved to incorporate a wide range of ingredients from shellfish to meats and seasonal vegetables. Chowder serves as a versatile main dish any time of year; the fact that it’s an easy one-pot meal is just an added perk. In this meat-free recipe, tender shrimp and potatoes mingle with the sweetness of fennel.
Shrimp, Fennel, and Red Potato Chowder
This pretty pink and white chowder can be made with any shrimp of almost any size, but if you get the extra-large or jumbo size, cut them into slightly smaller pieces. Use fresh or thawed frozen shrimp in the shells (which you will have to peel and devein) or frozen shelled shrimp — either cooked or uncooked.
Makes 6 servings
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed or finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 5 cups shrimp broth, bottled clam juice, or seafood broth (see Notes)
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1½ pounds red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, halved or quartered and sliced (about 4½ cups)
- 1 fennel bulb (about 8 ounces), halved and thinly sliced, plus 3 tablespoons
- chopped fennel fronds for garnish
- ¾ teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
- 2 pounds unshelled shrimp — either small Maine shrimp or any small or medium-size shrimp — or 1½ pounds shelled and deveined shrimp
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons Pernod (optional; see Notes)
- ¼ cup snipped chives
- Melt the butter in a large heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and cook the onions over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel seeds and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the flour, whisk for 2 minutes, then whisk in the broth, water, and half-and-half. Add the potatoes, fennel, and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
- If the shrimp are unshelled, peel and devein. Add the shrimp and paprika, bring just to a simmer, and remove from the heat. Season with pepper and additional salt if needed. Let the chowder sit at cool room temperature for at least an hour or, better yet, refrigerate overnight.
- Reheat over low heat, adding more broth, milk, or water if the chowder is too thick. Stir in the Pernod, if using, and chives. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with fennel fronds, and serve.
To make a quick broth from the shrimp shells, combine the shells in a pot with 1 teaspoon salt and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Strain. Or you can use bottled clam juice or canned seafood broth, or a combination of any of the above.
Pernod is an anise-flavored liqueur; use it if you like a stronger anise flavor.
Recipe excerpted from Chowderland © 2015 by Brooke Dojny. Photo © Keller + Keller Photography. All rights reserved.