This classic New England-style fish chowder is hearty and satisfying. It's often made with haddock, but nearly any lean white fish, like cod or halibut, will work equally well.
Here's an easy recipe for making fish stock, which is the base for the chowder and what provides much of the flavor. You can make it using the bones from the fish you got for the chowder, or you can sometimes buy fresh fish bones from your fishmonger. It's definitely worth the additional steps.
Having said that, it's possible to find decent fish stock at the store these days, which was not necessarily the case when I first published this recipe in 2008. It's certainly not as cheap as making it yourself, but it will definitely save time. (You can also order it online.)
As for the potatoes, I like using red potatoes because they add color to what would otherwise be a mostly monochromatic soup. But you can use any waxy potato, like white potatoes, or Yukon golds or even fingerling potatoes. Stay away from starchy varieties like Idaho potatoes (aka Russets), though. They tend to fall apart when they're simmered, so they won't work as well.
- 2 oz. salt pork (or 2 strips bacon)
- ½ large onion, chopped
- 2½ Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 qt fish stock
- ¼ cup white wine
- ½ lb. red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into approx. ½-inch cubes
- ½ lb boneless white fish (skin removed), cut into ¾-inch cubes
- ¾ cup half and half
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Kosher salt and ground white pepper, to taste
- Cut the salt pork or bacon into about ¼-inch cubes. If using bacon, this may be easier if you let the bacon sit in the freezer for a few minutes before dicing it.
- Add the pork or bacon to a heavy-bottomed saucepot or soup pot, and heat it slowly over a low heat, stirring more or less constantly, for 3–4 minutes or until the fat is liquefied. Be careful not to let the fat burn. Lower the heat if it starts to smoke.
- Add the chopped onion and cook it over a medium heat until it's translucent but not brown, another 4 minutes or so.
- Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon while it's absorbed into the bacon fat, making a roux. Cook the roux for another 3–4 minutes, but like the onions, don't let it brown.
- Slowly whisk in the stock, making sure the roux is fully incorporated into the liquid. Keep stirring while the mixture comes to a boil, and then add the wine.
- Add the potatoes and simmer 15 minutes or so, or until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a knife. You should see an occasional slow, gentle steam bubble, but not the rapid bubbling of a full boil.
- While you're waiting for the potatoes to cook, heat the half and half in a small saucepan. You want it hot (but not boiling) so that when you add it to the soup in the next step, it won't cool down the chowder.
- Add the hot half and half and bring the chowder back to a simmer for just a moment.
- Reduce heat to lowest setting and carefully stir in the fish. Heat very gently for about 5 minutes or until the fish is fully cooked. Don't let it boil.
- Season to taste with Kosher salt and white pepper, stir in the parsley and serve right away.