Winter does not transition nicely into spring here in the Rockies. We’ve had temps in the 70’s this week, but winter is lurking right around the corner. Actually, it’s here! There’s over a foot of snow in my yard and it’s still coming down. Which means it’s the perfect time for a hearty soup.
This is a very hearty soup, full of chunks of fish and potatoes. It’s a meal in a bowl. I adapted it from a Jasper White chowder recipe. If you ever have a chance to eat at one of his Summer Shack restaurants (in Boston, Cambridge, and the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut), do! It’s the lobster shack to beat all lobster shacks. They carry a wide variety of New England-style seafood, not just lobster.
Fish and Corn Chowder
2 oz. salt pork, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon flour
2 cups fish stock
1 pound Yukon Gold or red potatoes, sliced ¼” thick
1+ teaspoons salt
½-1 teaspoon black pepper
1½ cups whole milk
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1½ pounds cod fillets, cut in large chunks
Optional garnishes: chopped chives, thyme leaves, oyster crackers
Heat a soup pot over low heat. Add the salt pork and cook gently until it starts to render its fat. Raise heat to medium and cook pork bits until crispy and golden. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve for garnish. Add the butter, onion, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and golden. Do not brown. If they start to brown, reduce the heat. Add the flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of stock, stirring constantly, until soup thickens. It will be very thick. Add the 2nd cup of stock, again stirring, until the soup reaches a simmer. Add the potatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. If the stock doesn’t cover the potatoes, add enough water to keep potatoes submerged. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook for 15 minutes.
Taste for salt. It’s hard to say how much you will need because there is a variable amount of salt in any commercial fish stock (and none added to homemade, usually) and the salt pork adds a lot too. You want the soup to be somewhat salty at this stage. You will be adding milk and fish and you want the soup to season them up.
Add the milk and corn. Heat soup until hot but do not boil. Add the fish and cook gently until fish is cooked, about 5 minutes. Taste one more time and add more salt and black pepper, if needed. The soup should be highly seasoned with pepper. Don’t make it too salty, though, if you are garnishing with the salt pork bits.
To serve, garnish with salt pork bits, if desired. They are salty little bits of crunch but they are salty. You can also sprinkle on some chopped chives and fresh thyme for a bit of color. Oyster crackers are always a nice touch with chowder.
Adapted from a recipe in 50 Chowders by Jasper White, Scribner, 2000.