Friday, February 27, 2009

Aye...that'll warm yer belly

A couple of weeks ago, I was talkin to a friend of mine who's originally from Maine. She was tellin me about a fish chowdah (yea...even though she's been in Illinois for quite some time now, that accent still slips in now and again) that she made that was so good. She didn't give me a recipe...I don't think she has one. It's just one of those things that she'd always made...ya know?

Now, I make a mean oyster stew. I make it pretty often in the winter 'cause we love it. And I loooove clam chowder, but I've never tried to make it from scratch.

Anywho, since it's supposed to get cold again this weekend, I thought I might give the fish chowder a whirl.

So, what's in Pammy's pantry?

Lessee..I've got a couplea cans of Cherrystone clams. I've got potatoes. I've got corn starch. I've got dried celery flakes and a big can of Old Bay. And in the fridge, I've got milk, half and half, butter, Worcestershire sauce, onions, crushed garlic...oooohhh!...and I've got a nice slab of leftover baked fresh tilapia.

The chowdah is on. And is it ever gooooood!

Since I pretty much ad-libbed the recipe, I'll try to guesstimate it as best I can.

2 cans diced clams, including the juice
Approx. 1/3 lb. fresh fish of your choice (use a firm-fleshed tilapia, cod or orange roughy) cut into bite-sized pieces
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 T fresh, crushed garlic
1 T dried celery flakes
2 t Old Bay
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 t real butter
splash of olive oil
1 pint fat-free half and half
3-4 C milk (I used 2%)

Use a Dutch oven or stockpot.
Melt the butter and add a splash of olive oil. Sautee the onion until translucent and add the garlic, celery flakes, Old Bay and salt and pepper to taste. Throw the diced potatoes in, add enough water to just cover and cook until tender. If the fish is raw, throw it in there with the potatoes to cook. If it's leftover like mine was, WAIT. If you add it now, it'll fall apart. DO NOT DRAIN THE WATER. You'll lose all that flavor. Add the 2 cans of clams and juice, Worcestershire sauce, half and half and milk.

Taste it. If it seems a little "rich"...and it might with all that half and half...add a little more water. Add the leftover fish, if that's what you're using.

Now turn your stove burner down as low as it'll go and let it hang out...I hour? let all the flavors meld. But don't let the milk scorch! Ewwww! Stir it once in a while.

Now, if you like a "thin" soup, it's pretty much done. But I like my chowdahs thick. So I mixed up a little corn starch in you'd do to make gravy...brought the soup up barely to a boil and stirred in the corn starch slurry to thicken. You could also use milk and flour, but I find the corn starch is a lot easier. It makes a nice stoup. Not quite a stew...not quite a soup. A stoup.

Serve with a hearty, crusty bread. Or a nice salad. Or both.

I'm thinkin you could also add a few shrimp and/or some nice scallops, too. Ooooo...wouldn't that be good?

Too bad I didn't have a nice lobstah hangin out in the fridge.


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