The first time I had haddock chowder was on a Christmas trip home to New England whilst we were living in Mexico. Malcolm and I stumbled into a room overlooking the snow-spackled golf course at the edge of the Penobscot Bay at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. It was a divine break from the heat and vividity of Mexico. And on Sunday we went down to brunch. Inside, the restaurant was toasty warm, while the wild outdoors shone picturesquely in high winter sun. It was a cordial take-your-grandma-to-brunch, and so we began with mimosas. We glided into the room decked gaily with buffet, tables laden with meats and fruit. Carving. Chafing. Stacks of warm-from-the-dishwasher plates. And then, from across the room I spied a bubbling tureen of soup. Chowder, to be exact, creamy and clearly of the sea.
I ladled the liquid into my bowl without looking, as I learned its great and glorious name: Haddock chowder! And then to my left, in a tone more guttural than mellifluous, “Yah spillin’ yah soup, deah”, said the kindly elderly lady bringing me back to the moment. I thanked her politely, as I would not want to waste any of the heavenly material. Carefully, I made my way back to our table, where I proceeded to devour the richest yet light, most fragrant fish soup I have ever in all my days known.* And today, with complete humility, I attempted to recreate this magical broth.
I adapted a recipe from this one, tinkering here and there. This is how I did it:
Classic Haddock Chowder
Adapted from Maine Food and Lifestyle
- 2 lbs haddock filet
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 leek, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 2 1/2 cups red potatoes, cubed
- 1 cup clam juice
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
- 1 pint half and half
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Chives, chopped
In my soup pot I cooked 4 strips of chopped, thick-cut bacon over medium heat for about fifteen minutes. With a slotted spoon I removed the bits to a paper towel then added to the fat a diced yellow onion, half a leek that I had forgotten about in the crisper, and a celery stalk, which was optional, but I was feeling daring. The vegetables softened romantically.
I put in the pot 2 and a half cups of diced red potatoes, a cup of clam juice, a cup of white wine, a cup of water. I turned up the stove to boil the liquid goods, then down to a simmer for fifteen minutes while I readied the other ingredients. I started stripping thyme from its stalks and cut the tiny leaves into smaller pieces, which may or may not have been mincing. I did this until I was bored and added my efforts to a pint of half and half. This went into the soup.
Season with salt and pepper. And then the fish, three thick fillets I cut into good-size hunks. The original recipe specified 2-3 inch chunks, but I have no eye for measurements and I don’t have a ruler lying around anywhere, so I did my best. Maybe you know what an inch looks like. So, the soup simmered on medium for 5 minutes, until the haddock became opaque and fell apart somewhat. Not sure if this is the ideal outcome, it’s possible I stirred too vigorously; but this is how it happened. Adhering to the instructions, I allowed it to cool with the lid off. And into the fridge it goes. Tomorrow, when we are chowder-ready, I will slowly heat the contents of the pot and add two tablespoons of butter.
Remember the reserved bacon? You put it in the fridge I hope? Garnish with those crumbles and perhaps some snipped chives, if I am guessing correctly. Yes, that is precisely what I will do. Stay tuned to find out if I serve this bad boy in a bread bowl. Cliffhanger…
* I have since also had haddock chowder at J’s and it was also awesome. Sweet. Delectable. Wonderful.