Neil doesn’t have a lot of family traditions around Christmas time. But one that we both love is the fish chowder his family eats at holiday get togethers.* I was in the kitchen when his mom made this chowder just once, about five years ago. But with a few memories and the help of the internet I’ve cobbled together a pretty fair imitation!
1/2lb each cod and scallops, or pick your favorite 2-3 seafoods
1/2 of a large onion
3 yellow potatoes
2 C milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 C frozen sweet corn
1/2tsp thyme, a bay leaf, salt, pepper, and other spices to taste
The first thing you notice is OMG the ingredients from the grocery store! What can I say, we don’t have a lot of fresh off the boat seafood out here. These are the things I remember of the chowder: Neil’s mom cooked the fish in the bottom of the pan first. She simmered the potatoes in milk, not stock. And the chowder was thickened with evaporated milk.**
So in an attempt to hold to tradition I’m not straying far from the basics and so this fish chowder really lets the seafood shine through.
I used 1/2lb each of scallops and cod. I seem to remember there were two types of fish and scallops, but for just 2 people this is what I settled on. I melted butter in the bottom of the pan, added 1/2 a large onion and let it cook until just translucent. Then I added the seafood.
I cooked this over medium high heat with the cover on until the cod was starting to fall apart. While they cooked I peeled and chopped 3 potatoes. There should be plenty of tasty juices in the bottom of the pan by now and I just threw the potatoes in there and added about 2 cups of milk.
This is the part I thought was sketchiest. I don’t think it’s a good idea to boil milk, and I remember thinking that same thing at the time. But she kept the temperature around medium so the chowder was just gently simmering and everything seems to work out! Oh, along with the potatoes I added thyme, salt, and lots of ground black pepper. I don’t think his mom used a bay leaf, but I certainly did. I managed (just barely) to resist the urge to add more herbs and spices.
Once the potatoes are just tender enough to pierce with a fork (about 25 minutes for me) add frozen sweet corn (~1 cup) a can of evaporated milk (12 oz) and check the seasonings. This is the point where you can turn the chowder down to low and keep it warm until the flavors have melded and all the guests have arrived.
Serve this soup with a nice white bread. I’ve made a loaf using half and half regular flour and the white whole wheat I was recommending last week.
*this always confuses me. Neil hates seafood, but he loves fish chowder, it’s the one exception…
**Actually I just remember milk from a can, but I’m assuming it was evaporated and not sweetened condensed – ’cause that would be gross.