" /> I taste: June 2010
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June 2, 2010

Cheap Fish Chowder *

12-16 oz. inexpensive fish (Tilapia, Catfish, etc.), skinned and boned
3 strips of bacon
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 large stalk celery
1 medium onion
4 medium new potatoes
Red and green bell pepper (and yellow if available)
2-3 cups water
3-4 bay leaves
2-3 tsp. fish bullion (optional, but improves the flavor)
5 Tbsp. all purpose flour
4 Tbsp. salted butter (3 are optional if you want to reduce the fat)
2-3 cups whole milk (obviously 3 cups expands the volume a little)
1 or 2 tsp. dry dill weed
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

I use a 2.5 qt., heavy sauce pan, but one larger is fine, just mark the 2.5 qt. level--at least in your mind, since this recipe delivers 2.5 qts.

Put the bay leaves, 2 tsp. fish bullion, and 2 cups of water in the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the fish, minimally cut up if necessary, and cook till flaky (2-4 minutes depending thickness of the fish.) Remove the fish from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

At the same time, cut the bacon into small pieces and skillet fry till crisp; remove, cool and crumble. Leave the bacon grease in the skillet.

Slice, then dice the onion and celery, and simmer in the bacon grease. Do not brown, but do cook till soft and translucent. Then remove and add to the fish (degrease if you must)

While things are cooking, cut the potato into a half-inch cubes (peeled if you must) and add to the fish water (when all the fish is cooked); continue to simmer; slice the carrot into 1/8 "coins" (halve the coins if using a really fat carrot). Add to the potatoes after 4 or 5 minutes.

Slice the peppers lengthwise into strips about ¼ inch, then chop crosswise into ¼ inch dice. Use 6-8 slices total, varying according to colors. Add them to the potato/carrot water after another 2-3 minutes of cooking. Simmer till all the veges are cooked through, adding water from time to time in small amounts as necessary/if necessary. (Timing will vary, so be careful not to get the veges mushy; won't hurt, but give a less appealing result.)

When the vegetables are done--just crisp tender--drain thru a sieve into another vessel; add the solids to the bacon, onions, celery and fish. Return the water to the sauce pan. Reduce to no more than half a cup of water. Add the flour 1 tbsp. at a time and whisk vigorously. As the mixture thickens, add milk a little at a time to keep it thin enough to handle. Simmer for a total of 5 minutes to cook the flour, adding milk as needed. Add enough milk, slowly, incorporating as you go, to thin the mixture a little more. Remove from the heat and add back all of the solids.

Meanwhile, create your own double boiler by using a large enough pan to accommodate the sauce pan; add sufficient water to accommodate the sauce pan without overflowing, and bring it to a boil as things are cooking. When everything is done (above) place the chowder pan in the double boiler, add the dill, then add milk to fill to 2.5 quarts. Mix well and heat through, stirring occasionally.

Adjust seasonings with salt (unlikely if using the fish base), pepper, dill, etc. to taste.

When serving, put a pat of butter in the center of the bowl and sprinkle a little more dill around the top of the soup. Serve hot, with or without croutons or chowder crackers.

* This recipe has been improved and updated. I have found that it is remarkably different if prepared as above, separately cooking the ingredients and pooling them at the end, and heated through in a double boiler. Have no certain idea why; just is so.

Posted by Curmudgeon at 2:23 PM