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
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