Hello, it’s still cold here. Apparently, as of this printing, Worcester, MA is one of the snowiest cities in the US because of this winter,* with somewhere in the area of nine feet of snow on the ground (and more expected tonight – whee). It’s a bit disconcerting that the piles to either side of our driveway are taller than me.** Pulling out into the street requires some faith in other drivers and a keen respect for taking things slow.

Also, I have a new red cast iron, enameled dutch oven. Put these two things together and it’s time to stay in and make soup. Last night I made a fish chowder that was Damn Fine, and I’m here to share it with you.

This baby started with a recipe from Martha and then got manhandled just a little bit. If you look at the original recipe, you’ll notice that while thyme is not listed in the ingredients, it is mentioned in the instructions;*** I improvised. Also, I added shrimp because I like a more stew-like soup, and I pumped the garlic and the bay leaves a dab.

Fish Chowderserves 4 handily

2 tablespoons butter
6 scallions, chopped thin-ish
2 stalks celery, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
16 oz clam juice
3 medium pounds russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped medium
2 bay leaves
1 pound cod pieces
1/2 pound uncooked shrimp
1 cup whole milk
Kosher salt and ground pepper

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat. When it just starts to sizzle, add the scallions, celery, and garlic and a dash of kosher salt; cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat. Slowly add clam juice and 2 cups water, making sure to smooth out lumps as you add the liquids a little at a time.

2. Bring to a simmer. Add potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce back down to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife (not quite ready to eat – on the chewy side), about 8 minutes.

3. Add cod and shrimp. Reduce heat to low and cover (it should continue to simmer). Cook until fish easily flakes, about another 8 minutes. By the time the fish is cooked through, the potatoes should be perfect. Pour in milk and bring up to temp, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf. Season with salt to taste and 10-15 grinds of pepper. Serve immediately.

This is not a thick chowder (tho’ it’s not thin and runny, either). Because of when you add the flour, it seems to depend primarily on the starch from the potatoes cooking in it to give it some weight. If you want a thicker bowl of soup, you might substitute half and half or cream for the cup of milk. The other option is to change up the starting method a little bit and make a roux first, then add the aromatics (celery, garlic and green onions) to the pot, before slowly adding the liquids (the method I use for gumbo). Or you, you know, you could just leave it as-is and serve it with bread on the side (which we did last night – delightful!), or with a little wild rice in the bottom – that would be nice too.

I used frozen fish and shrimp in this, as, even as close to the coast as we are, that’s the most economical way to buy fish these days. I have in the past purchased cod cheeks fresh, which is also affordable, but they weren’t available when I went to the grocery yesterday. Trader Joe’s carries cod pieces† in the frozen section for about $5/pound. They also carry a lovely assortment of seafood in the freezer. Nothing else in this recipe is expensive, so I splurged on a bag of uncooked Argentinian shrimp (to split between two recipes), but you could also go with scallops if you prefer. I thawed it all in the sink under warm water just before cooking.

All this to say, everyone ate big last night. This really is meant to feed four, but all three of us went back for seconds. So what I’m saying is, Enjoy =)


*Currently we’re just barely topped by Lowell. They can stay in the number one position, I won’t mind a bit.

**I know, I know, most things are taller than me. But still, the ground usually stays below eye level, k?
***Hence, it’s not in the mise picture – it was absolutely a last-minuter. Last Minotaur?
†As opposed to codpieces.