February 14, 2007

Oh, The Weather Outside

is Frightful... and predicted to get far worse before it gets much better! Today is most definitely a chowder day. And best of all, we have this dual-fuel stove with gas burners on top and an electric oven. If the power goes out - and it probably will - we've got it covered! I've always made traditional New England chowders, milk- or cream-based, potatoes and onions, fish or clams, and maybe some tried-out salt pork. Those are the recipes I included in The Frugal Family Kitchen Book, good, faithful standbys.

But last fall on a visit to my friend Nancy's, I had a fish chowder that was just excellent. Nancy, who is a super cook, shared the recipe with me and I've made it many times since. First, I'll give you the shared recipe, then I'll tell you how I usually modify it...you didn't think I could really follow a recipe more than once, now did you!?

Fish Chowder

1 1/2 lbs. fish, cut in small pieces
2 TBSP butter
1 or 2 leeks, thinly sliced, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 # yellow potatoes, peeled, diced (about 3 medium)
2 carrots, diced
4 c fish stock*** or chicken broth
2 ears fresh corn kernels
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1 TBSP chives

Melt butter, cook leeks about 8 minutes. Add garlic, cook another 1/2 minute. Stir in potatoes, carrots and stock. Bring to a boil, simmer 5 minutes. Add corn, cook five more minutes. Stir in cream, add fish and simmer. Chives on top.

*** FISH STOCK Nancy also introduced me to an invaluable product I'd never seen before: Knorr's Fish Bouillon. In cubes just like chicken, beef, or vegetable bouillon, it adds great depth of flavor. Not easy to find in the stores, but worth the hunt.

Now, I seldom have leeks in the house when the chowder mood hits, so I used lots of chopped onions, then more garlic and whatever kind of potatoes I have on hand. Instead of the fresh corn, I use a generous cupful frozen from our garden last summer. Ahhhh, then there's the cream. I just can't do it! I may use a can of evaporated milk, or any leftover half-and-half. This chowder is very filling, and (without the heavy cream) it offers low-calorie, high nutrition comfort food. It's doubly delicious with homemade English muffins... see the recipe in The Frugal Family Kitchen Book.

Having enjoyed this fish chowder many times now, I'm ready to experiment a little further, making it with clams on this snowy, blowy winter day. I think I have just enough spinach and a few mushrooms, maybe a sprinkling of pecans, for a little salad too. Let it snow, let it snow...