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fish chowder: a milky dish made with fish!

This weekend exemplified the yang and yin of Spring around here. Saturday was a gorgeous, sunny, “drive with the window open and wear flip-flops” kinda day; on Sunday a fog rolled on the pond all day, heavy and thick even at mid-day. Both days were beautiful in their own way, and even though I know we’ll get snow one last time, I sighed with delighted relief every one of those 48 hours.

And how convenient is it that Sunday was the perfect day for fish chowder? I used Haddock because it’s cheap, standard, and what 18th-century fisherman’s wife would put in her chowder, but any white fish (or combination of fancy fishes) would work. Salmon would work marvelously, yum!


I used salt pork, but please, don’t worry about the gross unhealthiness of this because there’s not much to begin with and it’s spread among 8 servings. Really. It’s mostly for flavour. Bacon would work just as well.

Salt pork.

The bulk of fish chowder is vegetables, assuming you count potatoes, which I only sometimes do. Also, the only other vegetable is onion.

Fish chowder.

What’s going on here (and you can’t really see, sorry bout that) is that we made a fish broth with some of the fish, poured that into the pan with the veggies, then steamed the fish chunks atop the potatoes and onions, which are submerged in fish broth. It’s a neat way to steam fish and cook potato at the same time.

Steaming the fish!

Eventually we need to move the chunky stuff to a pot, though if your skillet can handle the milk on top of this stuff, you can save yourself a pot by keep your chowder in there too.

Edible, but not done.

Fish is so low cal that it’s kind of a shame to serve it in a creamy soup, which defeats the purpose, right? But instead of loading up on cream, which is admittedly delicious in a chowder, I used a combination of low fat condensed and regular milk. The result is something creamier than using milk without adding any fat (which accounts for the bulk of calories in cream). I’m assuming it’s because there are more milk solids into the same amount of liquid, but my knowledge of food chemistry is slim, so I’m basing this on logic alone.

But in the end who cares? It’s a hearty and comforting way to watch the fog rolling around on the water.

Fish chowder.



New England Fish Chowder
adapted from a recipe by Margaret Woodworth D’Arcy of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of New Hampshire . . . I’m not even kidding, I found this in the Society’s 1968 Cook Book

1.5 oz salt pork, diced
1 lb potatoes (about 2 medium), chopped into 1/2″ cubes
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1.5 lb haddock, about 2 fish or 4 fillets, cut into 1″ chunks
2 c water
1.5 c milk
12 oz evaporated milk
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp finely diced parsley, optional but quite effective

Place 1/2 lb fish (about 1 fillet) in a pot with 2 c cold water. Bring to boil and boil 10 minutes.

Once that gets going, fry up the salt pork over medium heat to extract all the fatness. Once the bits are crispy and brown, remove them and replace with diced potato and onion. Cook 5 minutes over medium-high, stirring frequently. By now the fish broth is done, so add it (and the fish if you like) to the potato and onion, then spread the cubed fish atop the veggies. Allow to steam (i.e. don’t stir) for 10 minutes, continuing on medium-high.

At this point, if you think your pan can’t comfortably handle an additional 3 cups of liquid, transfer the fish & veggies to a bigger pot. Add milk, condensed milk, salt & pepper. Bring to *almost* a boil (don’t let it bubble up big!) then reduce to medium-low, cover, and simmer about an hour.

Immediately before serving, stir in the butter, then ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley and additional pepper. The official word is that chowder is better the next day. I, however, suspect that old wives tale was created by a Mom Conspiracy way of getting us to look forward to leftovers.



nutrition summary (using 1% milk, fat free evaporated milk): 245 calories, 7g fat, 1g fiber; 5 weight watchers points