Chowder: Variation on an Old Favorite

by | Tuesday, May 14, 2013 | 0 comment(s)

Tugger aka Beggar Man...Lover of raw potatoes!

I love chowder.  It’s hard to beat the basic, potato, fish/clam/corn, onion, salt pork, cream.

Until you try a fish soup from nearly anywhere else.  Berbere Spice Blend

Well, I’m being a bit facetious.  A well-balanced, chowder with thin  broth is something I crave; it is Puritan soul food (along with baked beans and cod fish cakes).  And we can all understand the limited nature of it’s ingredients by living through one Maine winter (or even hearing about it!)

But, it’s 2013 and we have amazing access to wonderful ingredients: spices, vegetables, and herbs.  So why not re-create the Puritan chowder from time to time?  

The original chowder recipe was given to my mother (not a New Englander) by an old Yankee woman she worked with at Towel Silversmith’s in Newburyport, MA.

Original Puritanical Recipe: As with all recipes quantities vary with personal taste.

  • Salt Pork
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Fish (fresh cod or haddock)
  • Water or fish broth
  • Evaporated Milk
  • Salt and Pepper

I use a pound and a half of both fish and potato, one large onion and about a quarter of a package of salt pork.  Chop the salt pork up and gently render the fat and crisp-up the pieces.  Set aside crisp salt pork.  Add the onion, chopped small and cook until brown. Add the potatoes, diced.  Just barely cover with water or broth; bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are cooked.  Add fish (rinse it first).  When the fish flakes easily with a fork add a can of evaporated milk.  Adjust seasoning. Garnish with crisp salt pork.

 

Not So Puritanical Chowder: I have simply added flavors that go well with fish and are found in other traditions, like fennel and saffron.  I use a hint of berbere in this soup, it is excellent!  Berbere adds a rich sweetness and full bodied flavor.  I also use butter not salt pork (I found a nipple on salt pork once and I haven’t used it since, I’m a baby).


  • 1 ½ lb Haddock
  • 1 ½- 1 ¾ lb Potato Diced (definitely NOT a baker)
  • 1 Fennel Bulb
  • 2 Small-Medium Onions
  • 3-4 Carrots (small to medium)
  • 3 TBL Butter (or Salt Pork diced)
  • 2 Good pinches of Dried Thyme
  • 1 Pinch of Dried Marjoram
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • ¼ tsp. Berbere
  • Heavy pinch of Saffron threads, don’t be shy
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Fish Stock, or Water
  • 1- 15oz can of Evaporated Milk

 

If you are using the Salt Pork: render the fat over moderate heat in a heavy soup pot. Set aside crisp salt pork (use as garnish when serving). Add veggies to the pot.

If you are using butter: Dice fennel, onion, carrot, put in a heavy soup pot with the butter. 

Sweat the veggies, add herbs, salt (salt to taste, NOT if you are using Salt Pork, wait until you are tasting the soup towards the end of cooking to adjust sodium levels), pepper & saffron.

Gently cook veggies until they begin to brown then mix in the Berbere, let it cook for a minute.  When the Berbers is quite fragrant add the diced potatoes, mix.  Cover the mixture by a couple of inches with the fish stock or water (If you didn’t make the fish stock yourself use water).

Bring the soup to a boil and turn down to a simmer.  When the potatoes are cooked; gently lay the fish on top of the potato mixture. Let it cook for a few minutes.

When the fish is cooked (i.e. when you can flake it) add the evaporated milk and stir.  Adjust seasonings.

 

 

 

 

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