Anybody who believes that New Englanders historically have a monopoly on chowder has apparently never had Florida conch chowder, Maryland clam chowder, Louisiana terrapin chowder, or any one of the many hearty fish chowders that Southerners on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts often refer to as “spoon dishes.” And those who can’t associate curry powder with Southern food have apparently never been exposed to Charleston hobotee and curried shrimp paste, Mississippi corn and cheese soufflé, curried cucumber mayonnaise, or the many fish chowders enhanced by a little curry powder from Baltimore to Mobile. As in the old days, a spicy chowder such as this one is usually intended today to be served as an exotic first course at a “company” dinner, but add corn, bell peppers, carrots, or even shellfish, and you have a more rugged chowder that, served with skillet cornbread, is perfect for a casual lunch or late-night supper.
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the oil over moderate heat, add the onion, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring, till softened, about 2 minutes. Add the curry powder and flour, stir well, and continue cooking, stirring, 2 minutes longer. Add the tomato, broth, water, and mashed potato and stir till the potato is well blended and the mixture thickened. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring from time to time, 20 minutes.
Add the fish to the pot and simmer 10 minutes longer. Stir in the cream, bring the chowder almost to a boil, and serve in wide soup plates.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.