This delicious creamy chowder is a fine food to serve to close friends and loved ones for they will be most pleased. My sweetheart, Peggy, has a Christmas Eve party every year and this one in 2014 was memorable for me in the food department as I made a number of my favorite foods and pleased a lot of people. That was my contribution to holiday happiness and I surely enjoyed the compliments. In any event this was the first time I made fish chowder and it certainly was a crowd pleaser, so without further ado I now provide the recipe to you. Enjoy!!!
The basic recipe is similar to that of New England Clam Chowder. The differences in ingredients are the generous use of fresh haddock instead of clams, powdered thyme as an additional welcome herb, and a larger volume of liquid using heavy cream and milk, and finally the use of corn starch to provide some thickening beyond that provided by the flour/roux in the clam chowder recipe. Thus, this chowder was pretty much guaranteed to be a winner, and making it for a crowd turned out to be easy. I made a gallon of chowder to serve along with baby back ribs, shrimp cocktail and baked ham, potato salad, lemon sugar cookies and many other light foods in the vegetable category that were purchased, as well as some of the varieties of pickles that I make. Peggy supplemented all of that with her chicken salad and tuna salad cocktail sandwiches using snowflake rolls. Yummy!
Ingredients: (Makes one gallon, which serves eight to twelve people)
2 lbs. of fresh haddock filets cut into 1" cubes
28 oz. of canned clam juice (I buy it at Sam's Club®)
1 quart of heavy cream
1 quart of Lactaid®: milk
1 very large sweet onion, diced
3 very large russet potatoes, diced
6 strips of good quality thick sliced bacon
2 tsp. White pepper
2 tsp. of sea salt
4 tbsp. of butter
1/4 cup of flour
2 tbsp. of corn starch
1 tbsp. of powdered thyme
Note: You can make powdered thyme using dried thyme and a small high speed blender, like a Magic Bullet®. Also, due to the high cream and milk content of this chowder, do not freeze any leftovers, for freezing will destroy the creamy composition of the chowder, which will be sadly evident upon reheating.
Wash the fresh fish and then cut it into approximately 1" cubes and whatever thinner cuts result where the filets are less than one inch thick.
Fry the bacon on low to medium heat until there is no uncooked fat, but do not make the bacon overly crisp and do not burn it or overheat the bacon fat. Turn off the heat. Remove the bacon to a paper towel. Crumble/break it into small pieces when it has cooled. Set the bacon aside.
Pour the hot bacon grease into a cup, avoiding the transfer of any solid particles, and then clean the skillet to remove any solid particles. Pour the hot bacon grease back into the skillet and put it on the stove burner with no heat.
Dice the onion into ½" or smaller pieces. Put them into the skillet with the hot bacon grease. Add the butter and white pepper. Sauté the onion on low heat until it is translucent. Turn off the heat and add the flour to the skillet and mix well.
Peel and dice the potatoes into cubes 3/8" on a side. Put the clam juice and the potatoes into a 1 1/2 gallon soup pot and heat on medium high heat until just boiling. Reduce the heat to medium or medium low and allow the potatoes to simmer for 8 minutes, adding a very small amount of extra clam juice if necessary to barely cover the potato pieces.
Add the skillet contents to the soup pot while stirring, and increase the heat to medium and stir to mix well. Add a pint of the milk while stirring and also the quart of heavy cream and the salt and the thyme. Add the crumbled bacon pieces. Mix the cornstarch well with a pint of the milk and add it to the pot while stirring. At this point add the haddock pieces and bring the chowder to a simmer and hold at that temperature, stirring every few minutes for 15 minutes. Do not boil the chowder, but the occasional bubble coming to the surface is perfectly okay. If the chowder is thick enough to suit you then cover the soup pot with a lid and turn off the heat. The chowder is done. If instead you want thicker chowder then mix another tablespoon of cornstarch with some clam juice and slowly add it to the chowder while stirring and continuing to heat the chowder to thicken it. Then turn off the heat and cover the chowder with a lid to keep it warm.
Sample the chowder and adjust the seasoning by adding white pepper or sea salt as needed.
Serve the chowder in pre-warmed crocks along with oyster crackers.
Adding a small tossed salad with a non-creamy dressing makes this a complete meal, and it is a nice accompaniment with texture and flavor contrasts. Yes, a light fresh tasting French white burgundy wine is a fine beverage with that meal.
You will get many compliments.