Wednesday, 20 April 2016

DIY Seafood Chowder

I am so not a food blogger!
I want to post this recipe for seafood chowder, because I’m making it today and because it’s yummy, but I’m hesitant to do so because, well, it’s not really a recipe at all. It’s more of a “choose your own adventure” – a list of potential ingredients, and a potential process by which you too can achieve creamy salty fishy deliciousness. Some months ago, when I first started making seafood chowder, I Googled recipes looking for a how-to guide. I took input from various sources, then just sort of improvised to create my own concoction. I’m not inclined to go out of my way to purchase fancy ingredients simply because a recipe calls for it. I just don’t believe a recipe will fail because you only have flaked almonds on hand instead of slivered, or because you leave out the celery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those who will substitute cinnamon for cumin (although that’s happened before in our household by accident). It’s more that I’ll happily use yogurt instead of sour cream, or a flour-milk roux instead of cream, or oregano and thyme instead of specially-purchased herbs de provance, or decide to omit the basil altogether. Take this recipe, for example:

I am sure that Donal makes a fine seafood chowder, but I am not about to go out of my way to acquire cod, salmon, smoked haddock, smoked salmon, AND mussels in their shells, just to make this recipe. I also like a lot more vegetables in my chowder than Mr Skehan does, apparently. I only have curly leaf parsley, so that will have to do. And I don’t have any double cream or pancetta. Does that mean I will just sit home and eat potatoes? No siree bob. Instead I’ll just use this recipe as a frame and… wing it from there. (Isn't that what everyone loves in a home cook? A strong sense of adventure?)

So without further ado, my kinda-sorta kitchen sink version of seafood chowder. As I usually do, feel free to tweak this “recipe” – double it, treble it, add or omit vegetables, mix and match the fish and shellfish, add different herbs, it’s all good! The goal is to create something that appeals to your palate, and that’s going to be different for each of us. No need to be a fussy rule-follower.

Time Involved:

About 1 hour 15 minutes (if just for chowder). It will take longer if you need to cook fish, make stock, etc.

Necessary Ingredients/Tools:
(but feel free to tweak as it suits you)

Large Pot

Additional pot/mixing bowl





Fish, cooked and flaked (I will be using pollock and salmon, but you can use what you like or have on hand)

Shellfish, cooked, in or out of the shell (I will be using shelled mussels and cluaisins (baby scallops) from our bay – if you don’t have access to fresh shellfish or find it too pricey, you can often find good value seafood mixes in the freezer section of the grocery store)

Thyme (fresh or dried)

Parsley (finely chopped)

Bay leaf

Fish stock



Crushed garlic


Salt and pepper 


1.) Roughly chop celery, carrots, onions and potatoes. Heat about 1 tbsp butter in a large pot. Add celery, carrots and onions; cook until soft.

2.) Add roughly chopped potatoes, bay leaf and fish stock (enough to well cover all vegetables) and simmer for 20-30 min, until all veg are soft.

3.) Let cool slightly, then pour everything into another pot or mixing bowl. Remove bay leaf.

4.) In the bottom of the now-empty cooking pot, lightly cook the garlic in a few tablespoons butter and sprinkle in an equivalent amount of flour to the butter, stirring constantly, to create a thick paste. This is called a roux and is a great way to make cream sauces, cheese sauces, or gravy. It seems really fancy, but couldn’t be easier. The trick is to keep the temp low and stir constantly.

5.) Once the roux is smooth and thick, slowly add one ladleful of fish stock at a time until a velvety soup base forms.

6.) Add in the remaining fish stock and all veg, stirring constantly.

7.) Add flaked fish, shellfish, thyme, parsley and pepper and heat thoroughly.

8.) Add ½ cup (or more or less) cream, being sure not to thin the chowder too much. If too thick, add more fish stock or water.

9.) Once you’re happy with the consistency and everything is good and hot, taste and adjust salt, then serve immediately with crusty bread.

Bon appetit!

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