NEW ENGLAND FISH CHOWDER (8 first course servings)
4 pounds firm-fleshed fish
1 medium sized onion, coarsely chopped
1 large bouquet garni
3 large onions or 4 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
3 medium-sized waxy potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream or crème fraiche
1 tablespoon chopped chives
- In advance, have the fish monger gut and fillet the fish and remove the skin from the fillets. Be sure to save the fish heads and bones. When you get the fillets home, check them carefully and remove any bones.
- Make a fish broth by soaking the fish heads and bones in cold water for 30 minutes, draining them, and combining them with the chopped onion, bouquet garni and enough water to cover in a 4 quart pot. Bring the broth to a slow simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off any froth that floats to the top. Strain the broth through a medium mesh strainer.
- Remove any remaining bones from the fillets and cut them into 16 equal-sized pieces (2 pieces per bowl). Refrigerate until just before adding to chowder.
- Over medium heat, cook the sliced onions and potatoes in the butter in a 4 quart pot for about 15 minutes. Be careful not to let the onions brown. Add the fish broth and bring the soup to a slow simmer. Simmer the soup for 5 to 10 minutes to finish cooking the potatoes. Check the potatoes by pushing one of the cubes against the inside of the pot with a spoon – it should crush easily. Add the heavy cream and simmer for 1 minute.
- At the last minute, just before serving the chowder, bring it to a simmer and add the cutup fish fillets. Simmer the soup with the fish for 5 to 10 minutes, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness.
- Ladle the chowder into hot bowls and decorate each one with chopped chives.
SUGGESTIONS AND VARIATIONS:
Try using different herbs; fresh tarragon gives the chowder a whole new dimension. I also like to add a handful of shredded sorrel leaves to the chowder a minute or two before serving to give it an exciting tang.
If you want to use bacon, which gives the soup a satisfying smoky flavor, cook ¼ pound bacon until the bacon is beginning to get crisp, cut it into thin strips and cook the onions and potatoes in the bacon fat. Sprinkle the cooked bacon strips onto the chowder just before serving.
from James Peterson, Splendid Soups