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John Merwin's Recipe for New England Fish Chowder

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December 28, 2009

John Merwin's Recipe for New England Fish Chowder

By John Merwin

There was a little fish-type activity here over Christmas weekend, despite its being a cold and blustery winter holiday. I warmed things up a bit by making an old-fashioned New England fish chowder. Here’s how it worked.

Traditional ingredients are local to the New England coast, but can be found anywhere: salt pork, cod or haddock (or any sweet, white-fleshed fish from freshwater or salt), onions, potatoes, water, milk or cream or both, salt and pepper. The trick is in adding ingredients in the right order to account for differences in cooking times.

Start by cutting a slice of salt pork into one-quarter-inch cubes--about one-third of a cup’s worth. Saute the cubes on the bottom of a saucepan to render the fat liquid, then save the crispy pork bits for later.

Coarsely chop a tennis-ball-size yellow onion, then saute the onion in the pork fat until the onion turns slightly golden. Add 3 or 4 potatoes that have been cut into pieces about one-half-inch thick. Add enough water to cover the potatoes, then heat to low boil so the potatoes start cooking.

In about 10 more minutes (when potatoes are about halfway done) add chunked fillet pieces to the top of the liquid. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. The fish will cook in about 7-8 minutes, by which time the potatoes will also be done. Add a cup of cream or 2 cups milk (I used a can of evaporated milk) and reheat but do not boil. Sprinkle reserved pork bits on top when serving.

This particular chowder is classically simple, but there are lots of possible variations. Any other ideas?

Comments (11)

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from seadog wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

It sounds delicious just the way it is--sometimes simple is the best way to go. I might add some celery, maybe carrots, and (for me) more black pepper than most people like. If you really want to crank up the flavor, use fish stock instead of water. Yum!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Sounds great. I'd also add chopped celery into the grease and a chopped carrot with the potatoes. Salt pork can be hard to find here - might have to use bacon. I did find some salt cured bacon at a local store but a little goes a very long way. Also very good with salmon.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Double D wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Sounds delicious. I made nearly the same for a Christmas eve dinner for the family, though I sprinkled some flour over the onions and celery, letting it brown a bit before adding the rest of the ingredients in the same order.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Will a spoon stand up in it? I don't even care. This is good stuff. So hungry now.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Same basic recipe as my Grannies Clam Chowdah. Clams, onions, potatos, butter (lots) milk (whole), salt and peppah.
Best in the world, she is gone but the chowdah lives on. Now I make it the same way.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from bigjake wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

toss in some sweet corn niblets and a 1/2 lb of Bar Clam meat.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from aragonnapoles wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

I will try it for old-new year dinner. Thanks for share it.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Good stuff. Basic recipe works for all kinds of fish and seafood.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big O wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

We're going to try it with crappie fish !

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sue Roskos wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Thanks for sharing your recipe. I'm positive my hubby will love it since it has one of his basic food groups-bacon!! It'll go well in a thermos for us on vet route and trap line. Want to read true tales of Vetworld,trapping and nature check out www.trapshackcompany.com click BLOG.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from seneca_slabs wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

This is a really good meal for anyone that likes fish or soup. My wife is not a big fan of eating fish, but i made it with crappie and she loved it! Everyone should give it a try. Thanks for the great recipe.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from bigjake wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

toss in some sweet corn niblets and a 1/2 lb of Bar Clam meat.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from seadog wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

It sounds delicious just the way it is--sometimes simple is the best way to go. I might add some celery, maybe carrots, and (for me) more black pepper than most people like. If you really want to crank up the flavor, use fish stock instead of water. Yum!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Same basic recipe as my Grannies Clam Chowdah. Clams, onions, potatos, butter (lots) milk (whole), salt and peppah.
Best in the world, she is gone but the chowdah lives on. Now I make it the same way.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from aragonnapoles wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

I will try it for old-new year dinner. Thanks for share it.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Sounds great. I'd also add chopped celery into the grease and a chopped carrot with the potatoes. Salt pork can be hard to find here - might have to use bacon. I did find some salt cured bacon at a local store but a little goes a very long way. Also very good with salmon.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Double D wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Sounds delicious. I made nearly the same for a Christmas eve dinner for the family, though I sprinkled some flour over the onions and celery, letting it brown a bit before adding the rest of the ingredients in the same order.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Will a spoon stand up in it? I don't even care. This is good stuff. So hungry now.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Good stuff. Basic recipe works for all kinds of fish and seafood.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big O wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

We're going to try it with crappie fish !

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sue Roskos wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Thanks for sharing your recipe. I'm positive my hubby will love it since it has one of his basic food groups-bacon!! It'll go well in a thermos for us on vet route and trap line. Want to read true tales of Vetworld,trapping and nature check out www.trapshackcompany.com click BLOG.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from seneca_slabs wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

This is a really good meal for anyone that likes fish or soup. My wife is not a big fan of eating fish, but i made it with crappie and she loved it! Everyone should give it a try. Thanks for the great recipe.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment