New England fish chowder is typically made with haddock—similar in taste and texture to Pacific cod and rockfish—and not much else other than bacon, cream, clam juice, and potatoes. In the Yankee tradition, this chowder is pared down to its essentials, except for the thyme and parsley which may make a true New Englander chafe at the extravagance.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 thick-cut slices smoky bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups bottled clam juice or fish stock
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1½ pounds red bliss potatoes, cut into ¾-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ cups half-and-half
1½ pounds lean white fish such as halibut, cod, rockfish, or lingcod (or any combination)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Oyster crackers for serving
Prep the Chowder
In a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate, leaving the fat in the pot. Add the onion and celery to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.
Stir in the clam juice, 2 cups water, the thyme, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and the potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the half-and-half and bring just to a simmer. Do not boil.
Finish and Serve
Meanwhile, remove any pin bones from the fish and cut into 1-inch pieces. Add the fish and simmer until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the bacon and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with oyster crackers. Enjoy!
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Pair It Up
Creamy New England–style fish chowder pairs really nicely with full-bodied white wines such as chardonnay or viognier, or a crisp New England beer like Narragansett lager.
Level It Up
For even more richness, use light or heavy cream in place of the half-and-half.
Lighten it Up
Canned evaporated milk—NOT sweetened condensed milk—adds all of the creamy richness of half-and-half with a lot less fat. But don’t be tempted to dilute it with water.