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NO.54
FALL2017

Cod chowder.

Jasper White considers his traditional fish chowder, made with either cod or haddock, the most important recipe in his important book from 2000, 50 Chowders. This is not that recipe. Among a number of other things, it is more vegetal and lighter than White’s, and uses shrimp instead of fish stock. English kitchens historically served cod with shrimp sauce, and for good reason. The marriage is equally happy here. It is, however, no less authentic for that, equally simple and just as good. You will need to make the stock but it is the simplest and quickest one of them all. Four servings.


For the stock:

  • about 1½ cups coarsely chopped carrots
  • a chopped celery rib and some leaves
  • a leek, trimmed of the coarser tops and chopped
  • an unpeeled onion, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • some black peppercorns
  • about a teaspoon of dried thyme
  • about 3 cups water
  • a handful of shrimp shells

 cod-fish002.jpg

For the chowder:

  • 3 oz lean salt pork cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • a diced celery rib
  • a diced leek (white part only)
  • a peeled and diced sweet onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into biggish (bigger tan the vegetables) dice
  • about 1½ cups of your stock
  • 1 lb skinless cod filets cut into biggish hunks
  • ¾ cup hot milk
  • salt and pepper
  • unsalted butter for serving
  • minced parsley

  1. Make the stock by bringing all the ingredients except the shrimp shells to a boil, reducing the heat and simmering the partially covered stock for about an hour before adding the shells and simmering for another 20-30 minutes.
  2. Strain the stock and reduce it to about 2 cups.
  3. Render the salt pork until gold and crisp over low heat, usually in 15-25 minutes.
  4. Add the butter to the pork, increase the heat to medium low and stir the vegetables other than the potatoes around in the pot to coat them with the fat until they glisten. Cook until the vegetables soften but do not brown.
  5. Add the bay and thyme to the vegetables followed by the stock and bring it to a boil, then add the hot milk and potatoes, then reduce the heat to medium low.
  6. Cook the soup (it is not yet chowder) until the potatoes are done, usually in ½ hour or so.
  7. Season the soup with generous doses of salt and pepper.
  8. Add the fish to the pot and cook until it is just flakey but not falling apart. The timing will depend on the thickness and original size of your fish but in no case should take longer than 10 minutes.
  9. Check the seasoning before serving each bowl topped with a pat of butter followed by a scatter of parsley.
  10. Always send the chowder to table with some hot sauce.

 

Notes:

-If you have some shrimp heads as well as shells the stock will be even better.

-Bottled clam juice can replace the stock in a pinch but the result will not (quite) be the same.

-Purists will make a reduced fish stock from heads and tails but we like the shrimp and vegetable notes even better.

-The chowder will be even better if you have time to make it in advance and let it sit around for awhile. Take extreme care not to boil the chowder when you reheat it, however, or the fish will overcook and the milk may curdle.

-Other fish make good chowder too. Haddock is another classic: Pollack is sustainable and fashionable but we find it insipid and unpleasant. By no means use tilapia for anything.