Fill your soup bowl with a satisfying chowder of tender fish and spring vegetables.
Chowder began as a fish soup, but, as with many things culinary, the dish has evolved and broadened over the years. Since I needed to come up with some sort of definition of chowder for the book, here’s the one I offer in the opening pages: Chowder is a chunky hearty soup, usually made with salt pork or bacon, onions, potatoes, a main ingredient (often seafood), and a liquid. That’s just the starting point. From there, home cooks and chefs add or subtract, leaving out the pork to create a meatless stew, replacing onions with leeks or garlic, or switching up the liquid, but keeping potatoes as a constant.Welcome to Chowderland, a land where chowder — that slurpy, chunky soup/stew — reigns. My eponymous new book is currently rolling out to stores, and I feel like a proud mom. I developed the recipes and wrote the manuscript, and a talented team working at (and with) Storey Publishing edited, copy edited, designed, styled, photographed, indexed, printed, and bound the book. Now it’s out in the world and the result is beautiful.
The book comprises about twenty-five chowder and seafood stew recipes, including all the classic clam, fish, and mussel chowders (and variations thereof), as well as shellfish chowders and stews that highlight lobster, shrimp, crabmeat, and scallops. My research revealed the old tradition of farmhouse chowders made with such vegetables as corn, parsnips, or beans. I even developed a chowder made with Thanksgiving leftovers and gave corned beef and cabbage a fresh presentation for St. Patrick’s Day.
To make any bowl of chowder into a complete meal, I included recipes for accompanying breads, such as Kale Toasts, Salt and Pepper Biscuits, and Red Pepper-Scallion Pita Toasts (which are an excellent side with the spring chowder recipe that follows). Salads that work especially well with chowder also appear in the book, including Brussels Sprout Slaw and Orange, Radish, and Basil Salad, and desserts such as Bittersweet Chocolate-Pecan Tart, Plum-Almond Galette, and Oversize Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies provide the perfect finish.
Enjoy your stay in Chowderland!
Spring’s First Chowder with Fresh Herbs and Peas
This lovely, delicate fish chowder is based on one from The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman. It uses not only spring’s first tender carrots and peas (if you can’t find fresh peas in pods, frozen are fine) but also copious amounts of fresh green herbs, chopped coarsely so they show off their beauty.
Makes 4 servings
- 4 ounces bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons butter, plus more if needed
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 cup bottled clam juice or seafood broth (see Notes)
- 2 cups water
- 1 pound red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and diced (about 3 cups)
- 3 slender young carrots, thinly sliced
- ¾ teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound haddock or other mild flaky fish fillets, cut into 4-inch chunks
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (see Notes)
- ½ cup snipped chives or thinly sliced scallions
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dill
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped tarragon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the bacon in a large heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until crisp and the fat is rendered, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the cooked bits with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and reserve. You should have 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot; if there is too much, pour some off, or if there is too little, make up the difference with additional butter.
- Add the butter to the pot and cook the onion over medium heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the clam juice, water, potatoes, carrots, and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the potatoes and carrots are almost tender, about 12 minutes.
- Add the cream and fish, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until the fish is opaque, about 5 minutes. The fish will break apart as it cooks.
- Add the peas, chives, dill, parsley, and tarragon, and cook for 5 minutes if using fresh peas or about 2 minutes for frozen peas. Stir in the reserved bacon bits and season with pepper and additional salt if needed. Let the chowder sit at cool room temperature for at least an hour or refrigerate overnight.
- Reheat over low heat, ladle into bowls, and serve.
Bottled clam juice is usually shelved with the canned fish in the supermarket; seafood broth — in cans or shelf-stable cartons, or in jars as a concentrate — can usually be found with the canned chicken and beef broth.
If making the chowder a day ahead, add the peas and fresh herbs when reheating, since they will lose color upon standing.
Recipe excerpted from Chowderland © 2015 by Brooke Dojny. Photo © Keller + Keller Photography. All rights reserved.