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Classic Down East Haddock Chowder

The virtue of Maine-style fish chowder is its simplicity. It’s a milky, brothy chowder, unembellished with wine or heavy cream, tasting mostly of the good, fresh, locally caught haddock from which it is made. This recipe is classic, with the main concession to modernity being the addition of fresh thyme, which you can omit or reduce if you so prefer. The secret to chowder’s depth of flavor lies in the aging process during which all the chowder’s elements have a chance to meld and blend, resulting in a most successful and happy marriage.

Classic Down East Haddock Chowder
Brooke Dojny, Dishing Up Maine

3 ounces bacon or salt pork, cut into small pieces (about ¾ cup)
1 large onion, sliced
1 celery rib, sliced (optional)
2 cups bottled clam juice
1 cup water, plus more, if necessary
3 cups diced russet or all-purpose potatoes such as Yukon gold (about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups half-and-half
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried
2 pounds haddock or other similar mild white fish, such as cod or pollock, cut into 2-3 inch chunks
2 Tablespoons butter

Cook the bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered, 10-15 minutes. Remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels (refrigerate until ready to serve). You should have 1-2 Tablespoons of fat.

Add the onion and celery, if desired, to the drippings and cook over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the clam juice, water, potatoes, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the half-and-half and thyme. Add the fish, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until the fish is opaque, about 5 minutes. Cool uncovered, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When ready to serve, add the butter and reheat gently (do not boil), adjusting the seasonings and adding more water if necessary, and ladle into bowls. Pass a bowl of reserved bacon bits for sprinkling on top, if desired.

Makes about 2 quarts (4-6 main course servings).

Brooke Dojny is the author of several cookbooks including Dishing Up Maine.

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1 Comment

  • 06/19/2009 at 6:22 AM

    I would possibly add a bit less stock and a bit more milk next time, but it really was delicious for a meal which was so easy.