Fish Chowder

As I was unpacking my purchases from a local produce stand yesterday, I realized that if there’s one thing I tend to overstock in our house, it’s potatoes. Our kitchen table, home to bowls of neatly organized fruit, citrus, and onions (as well as the mail and appliances I’m too lazy to put away) was also littered with several bags each containing 2-3 greening potatoes. Oops.

I admit it’s because each week I buy more potatoes than I need to compensate for the ones leftover from the previous week that I see are turning that unfortunately shade of green instead of creamy yellow. So I suppose I should either get better at estimating how many potatoes I actually will need or start making more things that use more potatoes.

More things that use potatoes… well, chowder certainly comes to mind. I made this one with chunks of beautiful wild salmon and Pacific halibut– firm fleshed fish that could retain texture after poaching in a broth that combined clam juice and chicken stock and had thickened from the starches of boiled potatoes. Also adding flavor to the soup was a base of celery, onion, and garlic cooked in some rendered bacon fat and butter. Using half and half and the bright flavors of fresh dill helped to lighten this chowder a bit rather than making it a pot of thick and heavy wallpaper paste. Finally, a garnish of crispy bacon pieces added salt and subtle smoke as well as pleasant crunch to all that softness. Have a pantry full of potatoes? Then add them to a soup pot and warm up with a bowl of fish chowder.

Note: Use any firm fleshed fish that looks good in the store that day, but being a good, Seattleite, I of course say that with the caveat of it being sustainably harvested. If you have some available, feel free to substitute fish stock for the combination of chicken stock and clam broth.

  • 4 ounces thick cut bacon, diced
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced (about 1.5 cups)
  • 3 medium celery stalks, diced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or savory or a mix of both
  • 1 large fresh bay leaf or 2 small dried ones
  • 4 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into about 1/2 inch dice
  • 14 oz clam broth
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 pounds mix of wild salmon and Pacific halibut, bones removed and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 to 1.5 cups half and half
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Add diced bacon and about 1 teaspoon olive oil to the bottom of a Dutch oven or large soup pot. Cook over medium heat until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat in the pot. Add the butter and melt over medium heat. When foam subsides, add the onions, celery, and garlic and cook until vegetables have softened but not browned, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the thyme and/or savory, bay leaf, and the potatoes. Pour in clam broth and chicken stock then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and let cook for 7-10 minutes or until potatoes are soft but retain their shapes. Smash some of the potatoes until soup base achieves the level of thickness you desire. Reduce heat so that soup simmers then add the fish. Poach until fish is cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in half and half and add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped dill. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, garnished with reserved bacon and additional dill.

Garden Count: 3

Thyme, savory, bay leaf

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