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Got plans for the weekend? Drop ‘em. Make this chowder instead. It will be worth it. You can always make new friends, but a classic chowder like this? Well, it’s more important than friends.
I’ve been eating this chowder since forever. Rosie Beaucoup has always made it. And except for Jackie’s Fish Chowder, it’s never been rivalled. I served it at the 2nd Annual Cat Farm BBQ. Ramekins and mugs filled before the main meat event. Adopamop said it was just like he remembered it from when we were kids, and scarfed back two helpings. I won’t lie to you – people loved it. And when people love your food, that means they love you. It’s the only reliable scale for these things.
The great thing about chowders is that they are even better on the second day. (Also, they are so freakin’ easy to make that a monkey could do it.) I don’t know what goes on in that pot, but I’m telling you, something extraordinary happens when fish and dairy products spend the night together. Kinda like 2.0 and I: magic. (But less creepy than what I just implied about 2.0 and I.) Point being that if you make it the day before you have some annoying relatives over, you can spend the day drinking your face off instead of slaving over a hot stove.
Here’s a tip I learned from Rosie Beaucoup: if you plan to drink any quantity of alcohol whilst hosting your food event, make a list of things to do (such as warm the bread in the oven, take the potato salad out of the fridge, put underwear on under the pants), and keep it on hand throughout the event. You can refer to it often, and it will be, in all likelihood, more reliable than you are after, say, six gin and tonics. Otherwise you’ll do what is most traditionally Beaucoup – find half the stuff you meant to serve your guests sitting the the refrigerator the next day.
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- 1/4 pound of butter (1/2 cup, or one stick)
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 potato (no more), diced
- about 3 cups chicken broth or water* – see notes below
- 1 tablespoon each of dried basil, oregano, and celery salt
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional, I leave it out)
- three dashes Tabasco sauce
- about 2 litres of milk – homogenized
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 lb (or more) white fish – such as haddock, cod or sole
- 1 lb (or more) shellfish – fresh, frozen or canned crab, shrimp, scallops, or lobster. I recommend using at least two – a 1/2 pound of each selection – in addition to the white fish. I strongly recommend scallops and lobster – I never use anything else. Don’t use any fish with a dominant flavour such as salmon, sardines, clams, etc.
For this recipe, I almost always use at least a pound of haddock and/or cod, a small package of frozen small-sized scallops and a can of frozen lobster knuckles and claws. I think the sweet scallops and lobster really make this chowder.
In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter and then sauté the onions and celery over medium heat – allow them to soften a little – just a few minutes. Add the potato and add only enough chicken broth (or water) to barely cover. Cook until the potato is just barely tender. Add the basil, oregano, celery salt, pepper, salt (if using), paprika and Tabasco sauce. It will seem like a lot of spices, don’t worry.
Layer the fish and shellfish on top. Add just enough chicken broth (or water) to cover. Cook only until fish barely flakes.
Add the cream, and then fill the pot with the milk. If you think you’re going to run out of room in the pot, skimp on the milk, not the cream. My Dutch oven is standard-sized, and there is plenty of room.
Allow the chowder to warm through. Keep on a bare simmer until serving or refrigerate and slowly heat up before serving.
Water is traditionally used in chowders such as this, and will taste just fine if you opt for that instead of broth. If using broth, as I do, I recommend using a sodium reduced variety (I use one of those 900 ml tetra paks) – if you find it’s not enough, you can make up the difference with water. The chicken broth adds just a bit of richness to the chowder.
I find chowder is best on the second day, so when entertaining, make it the day before – it will save you time and stress on the day as well.
After refrigeration, I put the pot on low and allow 45 minutes it to heat through. Do not allow the chowder to boil – low heat is key.
You will notice that the spices seem to sit on top of the chowder, like an oil slick. Don’t worry – when you serve, give a little stir and then scoop – just the right amount of spice will come up with the ladle.