Why It Works
- Cooking the pork with a little water kickstarts the fat-rendering process.
- Bottled clam juice packs a ton of natural flavor with minimal effort.
- Leaving out the fish until the last moment ensures tender, moist results.
As a born-and-bred Boston kid, chowder holds a special place in my heart, and fish-based chowders doubly so, as a fish chowder was the very first dish I ever got to stick on a real restaurant menu. It was creamy, rich, and satisfying, and totally impractical for any kind of home cooking. At home, I take a much more traditional one-pot approach to chowder-making. While the resulting dish it may not quite reach the lofty heights of fine dining, the results are still creamy, satisfying, delicious, a great use of leftovers or inexpensive fish, and—most important—really, really easy.
- 1/2 pound salt pork or bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (225g)
- 2 tablespoons water (30ml)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 8 ounces; 225g)
- 2 large ribs celery, finely chopped (about 6 ounces; 170g)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (about 20g)
- 1 cup bottled clam juice (235ml)
- 1 quart whole milk (900ml)
- 1 pound russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (450g)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 to 1 pound boneless, skinless fish scraps, such as salmon, cod, or halibut, cut into 3/4-inch chunks (350-450g)
- Minced fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, or chives, for serving
- Hot sauce, for serving
- Crackers, for serving
Combine salt pork or bacon and water in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and pork has begun to brown and crisp in spots, about 8 minutes. Add onion, and celery. Season gently with salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened but not browned, about 4 minutes longer. Add flour and cook, stirring, until no pockets of raw flour remain. Stir in clam juice, followed by milk. Add potatoes and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.
Simmer chowder, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are fully tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in fish chunks and simmer just until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately, garnished with minced fresh herbs, hot sauce, and crackers.