Monday, December 15, 2014

Cheap Comfort with a Simple Fish Chowder

I made a fish chowder as one of the meals during the forty dollars a day "challenge". It was the first cold(er) day of this winter and I felt like I wanted something warm and comforting. Plus making a stewed soup was one way to make a piece of cheap frozen fish fillet taste better than it normally does, and I could prepare ahead of time and just reheat later.

There are probably hundreds of different recipes for different kinds of chowder, some may even claim it's their family recipes passed from one generation to another, and here is a simple one making use of mostly everyday ingredients (except perhaps the Old Bay seasoning which I happened to have at home and which you could easily substitute with other spices) And I used milk instead of cream, and thicken the soup at the end with some roux.

Recipe: Simple Fish Chowder (serves 2 as light lunch or 4 as starter course)


500g firm, boneless white fish fillet (anything will do, like cod or halibut - this time I used Vietnamese catfish, probably the cheapest of all)
2 large potatoes
1 medium onion - diced
1 clove of garlic - finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasonings (optional, or can substitute with equal amount of paprika or cayenne pepper)
1 cup of whole milk (or half and half)
1 cup of water (can use fish stock)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of flour
1 tablespoon of green onions or parsley (for garnishing)
salt and pepper to taste


1. Roughly cut fish fillet into 3cm cubes. Likewise, peel potatoes and cut into smaller cubes (approx 1.5cm).
2. Put oil into a large saucepan and cook the onions over medium heat until softened but not browned. Likewise with the garlic in the same saucepan.
3. Add water, potatoes, thyme, bay leaf, salt and old bay seasonings into the large saucepan (that can hold over 1 liter of liquid). Make sure the potatoes were completely submerged in the water (add more water if necessary) Cook over low to medium heat, covered until the potatoes were cooked through (about 10-15 minutes)
4. In a separate pot, heat the milk until almost boiling, add the fish to the milk and cook in low heat for about 10 minutes. Don't let the milk boil or it will curdle. 
5. Set the cooked fish aside, stir the heated milk into the saucepan (while still on low heat) and mix together well. Use a fork to smear the cooked potatoes against the side of the pan so it's slightly mashed. The starch released from the potatoes should thicken the soup a little.
6. While the soup is simmering, on a separate frying pan, make the roux by melting the butter until bubbly over medium heat, then whisk in the flour until it's turned into a pale yellow paste. Add the roux into the soup, stir to mix thoroughly. Gently mix in the fish. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
7. Serve in a deep soup dish with finely-chopped green onions or parsley as garnish. Eat with crusty bread or crackers crumbled and mixed into the soup.

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