Having grown up in Maine, I often crave a creamy bowl of chowder. We Mainers have entire festivals devoted to finding the best recipe. Some prefer a thin broth, and others are so thick that you can pile up a chunky bite full on your spoon. Some recipes call for bacon which adds a subtle smoky flavor and others might spike the soup with a hint of sherry. The main thing is that a New England chowder is a cream based soup with the addition of some sort of seafood, such as clams. This version, which comes from my mother, was created to specifically highlight the seafood. When we made it together the first time I read the ingredients, and was surprised to find so few on the list, and that onions were not among them. “The soup is very delicate,” she explained. “You can add onions or garlic if you want, but in the end it will slightly overpower the flavor of the seafood.” After tasting it, I decided she was exactly right. She also explained that she uses whatever seafood is on hand, so while she prefers fresh, she might add some frozen seafood and still get good results. The soup also uses another unusual ingredient – Dashi Powdered Bonito Soup Stock, which is actually used as a soup base in Japanese cooking. Mom loves shopping in Asian markets and found that having it around was easier than keeping fresh seafood stock on hand, and a little goes a long way. I recommend using homemade seafood stock for best results if available.
Makes 2 – 4 servings
- 3 Medium Potatoes (8 Oz)
- 7 1/2 oz Fresh Firm White Fish (such as haddock or cod)
- 2 Cups Seafood Stock or 2 Cups Water and 1/2 Teaspoon Powdered Bonito Soup Stock
- 4 1/2 oz Mixed Seafood Mix (such as Mussels, Crab, Calamari, Shrimp or Bay Scallops)
- 3 Tablespoons Flour
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Cup Evaporated Milk or Half and Half Cream
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2" cubes. Boil them in 2 cups of stock until they are fork tender (approximately 8 minutes). Drain the stock into a sauce pan and set the potatoes aside.
- Add the seafood to the stock over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the fish begins to flake (approximately 10 minutes).
- If using previously cooked, frozen and thawed seafood, add it now and bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
- In the mean time, add the butter and flour to a small saute pan. After the butter melts continue to stir until the mixture becomes a cream color (do not brown).
- Add the evaporated milk or cream and stir until smooth.
- Add the milk mixture to the soup and stir over low heat. Do not return the soup to a boil - doing so will cause the soup to "break."
- Taste the soup. Add additional seafood stock or a light sprinkle of bonito powder if more seafood flavor is desired, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with oyster crackers.
Note: The chowder can be frozen, but doing so in smaller batches is recommended. Heat slowly and stir frequently so that the solids and fats in the cream base can recombine.
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