A few weeks ago, my talented assistant, Emily Bell from Columbus, Ohio, mentioned that on a winter trip to New England she had sampled a delicious seafood chowder at the home of friends. She liked it so much she politely asked for the recipe. When she told me about this winter soup, I asked for the directions too, and quickly made some myself. After several weeks of chowder suppers where I tweaked the recipe, my spouse, a picky eater when it comes to any fish dish, declared the broth and fish both delectable while he sipped with abandon.
In the original version, a good amount of flour was used to thicken the soup, but I was able to omit it. I enhanced the broth with hearty seasonings of curry along with the thyme and black pepper called for, and added a hint of grated garlic for a touch of heat. Although there was both shellfish, including shrimp and scallops, plus fresh cod and haddock listed in the first rendition, I chose to use only white fish—cod, halibut, or haddock. All worked well solo or in combination. Finally I garnished the chowder with a mixture of toasted breadcrumbs, grated lemon zest, and parsley.
For these cold wintry days we continue having here in Massachusetts, this soup has been a welcoming menu addition with its light, but satisfying flavors. Add a mixed greens and sliced radish salad tossed in a mustard vinaigrette as a side, and offer a plate of your favorite cookies along with a bowl of fruit for dessert. Voilà! A delicious cold weather supper!
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Creamy Seafood Chowder with Curry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
1 medium fennel bulb, halved, center cores removed, and bulb cut into 1/2 inch dice to make 1 cup (Save extras for another use.)
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 medium clove garlic, finely grated
2 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup half and half
12 ounces white fish such as cod, halibut, or haddock fillets cut 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick
4 tablespoons homemade toasted breadcrumbs (Recipe follows.)
2 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1.Melt butter in a heavy, large (4 quart) pot (with a lid) set over medium low heat. Add the leeks and chopped fennel. Stir while cooking to prevent burning until vegetables are softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
2.Stir in curry powder, salt, pepper, thyme, and grated garlic. Add stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover pot with lid and simmer 15 minutes.
3.Remove lid and whisk in milk and half and half. Bring to a simmer and then add fish fillets, making certain they are covered with broth. Cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily when cut with a knife, 4 to 5 minutes. With a fork, break fish fillets into small chunks. Taste, and if needed season chowder with more salt and black pepper.
4.While fish is simmering, combine breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and parsley in a small bowl for the garnish.
5.To serve, ladle soup into four soup bowls and sprinkle each serving generously with some of the breadcrumb mixture. Serves 4.
Half of a good-quality peasant or country bread (sourdough works particularly well) with crusts removed and discarded and bread torn into pieces
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
1.In a food processor, process enough bread pieces to make 1 cup coarse crumbs.
2.Heat the oil in a medium, heavy frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until they are crisp and rich golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. (Breadcrumbs can be stored in a plastic self-sealing bag and refrigerated for up to one week.)
Makes about 1 cup
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2022