Friday, December 11, 2015

~ Maine Fish Chowder ~

David sniffed suspiciously at the soup and Paul handed him a spoon.

“Suck it and see.”

David gave him a acerbic look but dipped the spoon.

At home in the boarding house, the daily soup generally held whatever they had heads of, tails of, leftovers of, the ends of vegetables, the beauty of fish stock was that it needed so very little but its natural self to taste at its most wonderful. If you knew fish, you knew that stock. David tasted it cautiously and Paul grinned at his reluctantly prompt second spoonful.

“You see? I get the concept. We used to have a pot of that on the fire all the time. Where do you know fish from? You’ve lived around a harbour, haven’t you?”

“Grew up on one.” David said briefly, dropping a cube of bread into the soup. “And sailed in the merchant navy among other things. Bit of time with a Halifax crew on a schooner before I came in land.”

~ Keeper's Yard

Makes about 14 cups; serves 8 as a main course


Fish Stock or use Raise the Dead Chicken Stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, very thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, very thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, very thinly sliced
2 dried bay leaves
1 bunch roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and stems
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 large (13 cm or more) or 2 small (10 cm long or less) fish heads from cod or haddock, split lengthwise, gills removed, and rinsed clean of any blood
1.1 - 1.4 kg fish frames (bones) from sole, flounder, bass, and/or halibut, cut into 5 cm pieces and rinsed clean of any blood
60 ml dry white wine
About 2 liters very hot or boiling water
Kosher or sea salt

115 g meaty salt pork, rind removed and cut into 1 cm dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions (14 ounces), cut into 3/4-inch dice
6 to 8 sprigs fresh summer savory or thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon)
2 dried bay leaves
2 pounds Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and sliced 1 cm  thick
1.2 L  Fish Stock or Chicken Stock
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.4 kg skinless haddock or cod fillets, preferably over 2.5 cm thick, pin bones removed
350 ml heavy cream (or up to 475 ml if desired)

For Garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

~*~           ~*~          ~*~           ~*~           ~*~           ~*~           ~*~          ~*~           ~*~ 


Fish Stock

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy 7- to 8-liter stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and peppercorns and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the vegetables become very soft without browning, about 8 minutes.
  2. Place the fish head on the vegetables and stack the fish frames evenly on top. Pour in the wine, cover the pot tightly, and let the bones sweat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they have turned completely white.
  3. Add enough very hot or boiling water to just barely cover the bones. Give the mixture a gentle stir and allow the brew to come to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered, carefully skimming off any white foam that comes to the surface, trying not to take any herbs, spices, or vegetables with it. (Using a ladle and a circular motion, push the foam from the center to the outside of the pot, where it is easy to remove.)
  4. Remove the pot from the stove, stir the stock again, and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and season lightly with salt. If you are not going to be using the stock within the hour, chill it as quickly as possible. Cover the stock after it is thoroughly chilled (it will have a light jellied consistency) and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

  1. Heat a 4- to 6-liter heavy pot over low heat and add the diced salt pork. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until the pork is a crisp golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cracklings to a small ovenproof dish, leaving the fat in the pot, and reserve until later.
  2. Add the butter, onions, savory or thyme, and bay leaves to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until the onions and softened but not browned.
  3. Add the potatoes and stock. If the stock doesn’t over the potatoes, add just enough water to cover them. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, cover, and cook the potatoes vigorously for about 10 minutes, until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center. If the stock hasn’t thickened lightly, smash a few of the potato slices against the side of the pot and cook for a minute or two longer to release their starch. Reduce the heat to low and season assertively with salt and pepper (you want to almost overseason the chowder at this point to avoid having to stir it much once the fish is added). Add the fish fillets and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish will finish cooking during this time).
  4. Gently stir in the cream and taste for salt and pepper. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit for up to an hour at room temperature, allowing the flavors to meld.
  5. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Warm the cracklings in a low oven (94 °C) for a few minutes.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to mound the chunks of fish, the onions, and potatoes in the center of large soup plates or shallow bowls, and ladle the creamy broth around. Scatter the cracklings over the individual servings and finish each with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and minced chives.
From Epicurious

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