As autumn commences, and cool weather threatens to settle in, the thought of fish chowder is a comforting one. If you have in your larder potatoes, onions, celery with leaves, thyme, butter, and milk in your refrigerator, you have all you need (except for the fish, of course) to make a tasty chowder. Marash Girl remembers the first time she tasted fish chowder in the kitchen of a fourth floor walk up in the North End of Boston; her friend Nancy Donovan had, in fact, prepared the fish chowder that day. Marash Girl has made Nancy Donovan's fish chowder many times since, and it always tastes as yummy as the first time Nancy served it to her. Here's Marash Girl's recipe (a slight adaptation of Nancy's).
Melt butter with a bit of olive oil (so the butter won't burn) in a heavy cast iron pot (or the heaviest pot you have). Saute chopped onions, chopped celery (including the leaves), thyme (fresh or dried), chopped potatoes (with or without skin). When these have softened, add cubed (white) filet of fish to the pot, (fresh or frozen -- a mixture of fishes makes for a more interesting chowder), stir gently until fish is flaky. Sautee for a few more minutes in butter (add more if need be). If you like your chowder thick, add white flour to the mixture after the potatoes have softened, and stir until thickened. Now add whole milk slowly, stirring as you bring the milk to a simmer. Do not boil. Add salt & pepper to taste. Your fish chowder is ready to serve!
Note of warning! When buying your fish fresh, ask the grocer to let you smell the fish first! If not, you may be smelling old fish throughout your house for a full week after you make the chowder! In any case, even when fresh, rinse the fish well in cold water before chopping and adding it to the chowder.