“Marilyn S” (Schofield) Fish Chowder
This is my Mom’s recipe for a real Cape Cod fish chowder. One could use striped bass or cod, tautog, or any firm fleshed fish. Raised as a native Cape Cod boy, I have seen this recipe changed and made more “healthy” with lower fat milk and less butter and then thickened with rue, but as fish chowder goes, I stick to the older and proven butter and cream methods. First, dice either salt pork or bacon into 1” squares and slowly fry into the pan. I prefer the bacon as it adds a subtle smoky flavor to the chowder. Then, once the bacon or salt pork is almost rendered, but before browned, add a few medium (3) yellow onions and slowly cook through until clear. The key is slow cooking in chowders. While they are cooking, peel 4 medium potatoes and start them to boil in a separate pot. Once the bacon and onions are cooked clear and starting to brown, you can add the fillets of fish on top of the simmering mixture. Grind some coarse pepper flakes on top of the fish, and maybe some dice parsley, and add one whole stick of butter, sliced into pieces to melt and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and leave sit for at least 15 minutes and let the fish slowly steam. Juices from the fish will add moisture and increase the steaming. If you wish, you can add one bottle of clam juice to the mix with the fish to help this steaming along and give the chowder a bit more flavor. By now your potatoes have simmered until just fork tender, but not mushy. Keep in mind that this is a fish chowder not a potato chowder. Drain the potatoes, saving the thickened potato water and spread the hot potatoes on top of the fish fillets to help them cook. If more moisture is needed to help fish steam, (depends upon if clam juice was added and the amount of fish in the pot) one can add a cup or more of the thickened potato water. The closer to the bottom the thicker this water is. By now you should see some melted butter, and the fish should almost be cooked through. Try to stir the chowder very gently as to not break up the fish fillets too much. Its time to add a couple quarts of half and half and continue slow cooking until its heated through. The worse thing you can do is try to cook it too fast, as you will scorch the milk and sour the whole pot.
Serve with a hearty bread or rolls.
Capt. Bruce Peters