Monday, November 24, 2008

Maine Style New England Fish Chowder

Here is a picture taken on my wedding day in South Portland, Maine. On a clear day you would see the Portland skyline across the harbor.
I was born and raised in Maine. After college years in Boston then formative years in Brooklyn and Manhattan, I now live in Northern California. Whenever I need a little Back East flavor, I make Fish Chowder, Maine-style, like Mom used to make. Real New England chowder is creamy with a thin milk broth (not the thick sludge you get in the restaurants). A friend of mine recently asked for the recipe, so I wrote it down for the first time. Here it is!

Maine-style Fish Chowder

¼ lb bacon (I usually buy three thick slices from Whole Foods)
1 garlic clove, smashed then minced
1 small white or yellow onion, minced (use a medium onion for more flavor)
2 tablespoons salted butter
6 small to medium white or Yukon gold potatoes (peeled and chopped into cubes – I usually cut them into 8 pieces or ¾ inch cubes)
½ teaspoon dried Thyme
3 dried Bay Leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 ½ to 2 lbs boneless Haddock fillets (Cod may also be used)
½ gallon milk (I use 2%; use whole milk for heartier flavor - add a bit of heavy cream if that is your thing)
½ capful Liquid Smoke hickory flavor
½ teaspoon Paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

This is an old-fashioned New England style chowder recipe. It is lighter and thinner than most restaurant versions.

Use large stockpot – I use an 8 qt. tall pot – with cover.

On medium heat, cook bacon in stock pot until crispy, turning as necessary. Remove crispy bacon and place on a plate with a paper towel to absorb grease. Leave bacon drippings in pan; add butter, garlic, and onions and cook on medium until onions are translucent.

Put potatoes in over onions; add about 1 inch water to pot. Add Bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cover and increase to medium-high; cook/steam for 5 minutes. Rinse fish, pat dry, and remove any bones. Reduce heat to medium and gently turn/stir potatoes. Lay fish on top of potatoes then cover the pot – the steam will cook the fish and finish cooking the potatoes. Check fish ever 2-3 minutes – use tongs or spoon to gently “pick up” the fish. If the fish breaks, it is done cooking. Reduce heat to low and uncover.

Slowly add milk. Do not stir until all milk has been added, and then only stir gently. Add liquid smoke and paprika. Use spoon to stir and break fish into desired size chunks. Leave chowder covered on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. At this point, taste the broth and add salt or pepper as necessary. Remove bay leaves if possible. Cover the chowder again and increase heat to medium. Cook an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chowder is ready to serve once it is hot.

Variation: corn chowder – add 2 cans of yellow corn, drained. Or use frozen corn. Both are good.

i heart haddock - can't get it on the West Coast (affordably anyhow)


mklee said...

Thanks for posting that! Can't wait to try it.

I too grew up in Maine and now live in Northern California... and lament with you that chowda's not easy to get here :D

Jess said...

Oh I absolutly love you for putting up this recipe!

I also grew up in Maine! I now live in North Carolina, and you say corn chowda, clam chowda they look at you like your from mars!

they dont know what whoopie pies are either!