Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Lazy Weekend

Probably because of the dark, wet weather we've been having all month I'm on a soup kick. This weekend was more of the same, with me busting out Jasper White's 50 Chowders to give his New England Fish Chowder a try.

New England Fish Chowder

4 ounces meaty salt pork, rind removed and cut into 1/3-inch dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions (14 ounces), cut into 3/4-inch dice
6 to 8 springs fresh summer savory or thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon)
2 dried bay leaves
2 pounds Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/3-inch thick
5 cups fish stock
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds skinless haddock or cod fillets, preferably over 1-inch thick, pinbones removed
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or up to 2 cups if desired)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1. Heat a 4 to 6-quart heavy pot over low heat and add the diced salt pork. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until the pork is a crisp golden brown. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the cracklings to a small ovenproof dish, leaving the fat in the pot, and reserve until later.

2. Add the butter, onions, savory, or thyme, and bay leaves to the pot and sautè, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until the onions are softened but not browned.

3. Add the potatoes and stock. If the stock doesn't cover the potatoes, add just enough water to cover them. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, cover and cook the potatoes vigorously for about 10 minutes, until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center. If the stock hasn't thickened lightly, smash a few of the potato slices against the sides of the pot and cook for a minute or two longer to release their starch. Reduce the heat to low and season assertively with salt and pepper (you want to almost over-season the chowder at this point to avoid having to stir it much once the fish is added). Add the fish fillets and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish will finish cooking during this time).

4. Gently stir in the cream and taste for salt and pepper. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit for up to an hour at room temperature, allowing the flavors to meld.

5. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don't let it boil. Warm the cracklings in a low oven (200*F - 95*C) for a few minutes.

6. Use a slotted spoon to mound the chunks of fish, the onions and potatoes in the center of large soup plates or shallow bowls, and ladle the creamy broth around. Scatter the cracklings over the individual servings and finish each with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and minced chives.

Makes about 14 cups, serves 8 as a main course.

I made a few modifications. As I didn't have any fish stock, I used 4 cups chicken stock spiked with one cup clam juice. I also had a lot of trouble getting the salt pork into a fine enough dice, so I ended up adding some crisp-fried bacon just to give myself a bit more to sprinkle over the top. I was quite satisfied with both modifications. Served with the recipe for Christopher Kimball's Baking Powder Biscuits, which is also included in the book. With a bit of practice, I think even I could get those biscuits to come out fluffy. As it was, they were fluffier than others I've tried, but I'm still not gentle enough when it comes to rolling out biscuit dough or something.


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