A streamlined recipe for creamy fish chowder

Rich, comforting and hearty, creamy fish chowder is a prime candidate for a 5:30 Challenge makeover — well, less of a makeover and more of a tweak. After all, fish cooks in a matter of minutes, and a basic chowder is usually little more than fish, a starch and a creamy broth.

Many chowder recipes, however, can get lengthy with the add-ins: bacon, wine and spice mixes are all frequent additions, as are multiple forms of dairy and stocks or shellfish juices. I’m not one to turn up my nose at these chowders, but they’re certainly not simple.

For this recipe, I’ve trimmed those long ingredient lists down to the critical elements. I like to use a firm white fish, such as cod, because it is readily available fresh or frozen, and it easily takes on the flavor of the broth. Yukon Gold potatoes, skin-on, are my starch of choice; cut them into generous 1-inch pieces that will fit on your spoon (and cook through quickly). Instead of using a combination of dairy products, I reach for half-and-half. It adds just enough richness to the chowder without becoming overpowering. To add a final oceanic element to the broth, I pour in a bottle of clam juice. For my money, clam juice tastes far better than any boxed or canned fish broth, and its more concentrated flavor balances the dairy. Finally, I round out the dish with a single small chopped onion, sauteed in butter, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

The actual cooking of the chowder is simple: After the onion begins to soften, stir in the potatoes, half-and-half, clam juice, a big pinch of salt and the aforementioned black pepper. Let it simmer until the potatoes are tender. This will give you enough time to slice up the fish and grab any sides or toppings you’d prefer. (I like oyster crackers and a bit of fresh parsley, if I’ve got it.) The last ingredient to go in the pot is the fish, which you’ll only want to cook until it turns opaque and begins to flake. Finish with a little more pepper — chowder loves it — and your simple soup is ready to be ladled up.

Quick Fish Chowder

Quick Fish Chowder
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
  • 1 pound cod or other firm white fish, pin bones removed
  • On the side: Oyster crackers
  • Optional: Fresh parsley, for serving
  • Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the butter is foamy, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes, and give them a stir, then add the half-and-half, clam juice, and a generous pinch of both salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a quick simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • While the potatoes are simmering, cut the fish into bite-sized pieces. When the potatoes are tender, add the fish. Continue to simmer until the fish is just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the oyster crackers and parsley, if desired. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: 630 calories (percent of calories from fat, 49), 32 grams protein, 50 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 35 grams fat (21 grams saturated), 154 milligrams cholesterol, 868 milligrams sodium.


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