We’re of two minds in this house when it comes to fish chowder. One of us loves the traditional, creamy, rich chowder of New England. The other prefers a lighter, more vegetable-intensive soup. As I am the cook here, it falls to me to strike a balance in styles, so to speak. This is the latest version of a fish chowder that is both “creamy”, and light in texture. The secret ingredient is: potatoes! A portion of the potatoes are pureed with aromatics, white wine, and stock. Then the remaining potatoes are diced, and along with carrots and other fish chowder-friendly seasonings, are simmered in the potato broth. At the last few minutes, chunks of white fish are added to the mix to gently cook. I substituted fennel bulb for celery and was very happy with the result. Lots of fresh lemon, and a garnish of chopped parsley and fennel fronds complete the dish.
This is our happy compromise. A light but smooth textured, flavorful, fish chowder. It’s simple and quick to make too. The only thing I might add the next time is a little sprinkle of crunchy bacon bits over top. That’s entirely optional. If you use vegetable or fish stock, this becomes a dairy-free, gluten free, pescatarian soup.
It’s a nice switch from the heavier holiday fare making the menu rounds this week. Enjoy, and have a lovely weekend!
Creamy Dairy-Free Fish Chowder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion , diced
- 2 cloves garlic , peeled and minced
- 1 medium fennel bulb , trimmed, halved, core removed, and diced (green fronds reserved)
- 4 Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1/4 cup dry white wine , or white vermouth
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken , fish, or vegetable stock
- Kosher salt , and pepper, to taste
- 2 medium carrots , peeled and diced
- 1 pound lean , firm, white fish (such as cod, haddock, halibut, rockfish), cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon
- A generous pinch of cayenne pepper
- Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and the reserved fennel fronds , for garnish
Warm the olive oil in a sturdy soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and half of the diced fennel bulb and saute until the vegetables have softened. Meanwhile, peel and chop 3 of the potatoes (you should have about 2 cups). Add the potatoes, white wine, and 3 cups of your chosen stock to the pot and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft. Remove the pot from the heat. Blend with an immersion blender, or in batches with a regular blender, until perfectly smooth.
Return the mixture to the soup pot and add additional broth to achieve your desired consistency. Taste, and season with salt, as necessary. Bring the broth back to a simmer. Peel and dice the remaining potato. Add the diced carrot, potato and remaining diced fennel bulb to the soup and simmer until the vegetables are just tender. Add the fish and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Add the lemon juice and cayenne pepper, taste and adjust for salt. Add a little freshly ground black pepper if you like. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the chopped fresh green herbs. Serve with soup crackers or bread.