One of my all time favorite meals to tuck into, especially when it's cooling down and the leaves are changing color, is Smoked Fish Chowder. I remember my first spoonful of the stuff at The Spotted Pig, when I first began my cooking internship, and nodding with delight.
This is not your typical dodgy porridge you might be used to. Instead you have a light cream infused with tender flaky fish, pancetta, and that finely diced marriage of potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion with the soft crunch of house made oyster crackers. Sop up your bowl with crusty leftover bread and you're in heaven. Part of the joy is the surprise of what will appear next on your spoon, like searching for the toy in a Cracker Jack box and coming up with an unexpected gem each time. I've been toying with the recipe ever since my first bite and make it at least twice a year now. I've used trout, haddock, and bluefish and they all work well. Whatever your fishmonger has available is just fine. When infusing the fish, think of making a cup of tea. You want to pull all the smokey flavors out of the fish and into the cream. Rustic and delicate, you will not look at chowder the same. Enjoy!
4 cups of organic whole milk, non homogenized is best
10 ounces of smoked whitefish, flesh and bones discarded
4 ounces thick bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 cup onion, medium dice
1 cup celery, medium dice
1 cup carrot, fine dice
1/2 cup Yukon Gold potatoes, fine dice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 pinch of cracked black pepper
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, rough chop
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 lemon, juiced
1. In a saucepan, combine the milk and fish and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and take the pan off heat and let cool.
2. Put a high sided pan or dutch oven over high heat and toss in the bacon and cook until its just crispy and brown. Bring down the heat to medium and add the onion, celery, carrot, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 25-30 minutes. Sweating the vegetables low and slow will give off a great sweet aroma without overcooking the veggies.
3. Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the cooled braised milk and fish to the pot. Turn up the heat and cook for another 10 minutes until your potatoes are just fork tender. Discard leftover thyme springs.
4. Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley, chili powder, lemon juice and tuck in!
Try it with good country white or sourdough bread and oyster crackers.