A chowder is a wonderfully substantial fish soup which could almost be classified as a stew. It is certainly a meal in itself and there are lots of variations on the theme.
Heat the oil in a stainless steel saucepan and brown the bacon well until it is crisp and golden. Add the onion, cover and sweat for a few minutes over a low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes more. Add the fish stock or water gradually, then the milk, bouquet garni and potatoes. Season well with salt, pepper, mace and cayenne. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are almost cooked (5–6 minutes).*
Meanwhile cut the fish into roughly 2.5cm square pieces. Add the fish to the pot as soon as the tip of a knife will go through the potato. Simmer gently for 3 or 4 minutes, stir in the cream and add the shellfish and any liquor from opening the mussels or clams. When the soup returns to the boil remove from the heat. Remember that the fish will continue to cook in the heat of the chowder so it should not be overcooked. Taste, correct seasoning and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and chives. Crusty hot white bread or hot crackers are usually served with a chowder.
* May be prepared ahead to this point.
© 2001 Darina Allen. All rights reserved.