New Orleans Fish Chowder

Here’s a New Orleans take on New England clam chowder. We don’t have worthwhile clams, so I substitute local seafood. (You can use your imagination about which ones to use.) The best but most complicated way to cook this starts with a whole fish that will give not only meat for the chowder, but also the stock. However, you can also make this using oyster water in place of the fish stock, which will make the recipe much quicker. If using oyster water, begin at Step 4.

Creamy New England Clam Chowder garnished with parsley

Creamy New England Clam Chowder garnished with parsley

  • If making your own fish stock:
  • 1 whole trout, redfish, black drum or flounder, 1-3 pounds, cleaned, gills and liver removed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Upper four inches of a bunch of celery
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Upper part of a bunch of fennel, cut up (optional)
  • Stems of a bunch of parsley
  • 2 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 cloves
  • ~
  • If using oyster liquor:
  • 1/2 gallon oyster liquor, strained
  • 2 lbs. fish fillets, cut into one-inch pieces (a good use for leftover fish)
  • ~
  • 1/2 lb. salt pork or thick bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2 lbs. white potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch dice
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 1 pint oysters, with liquor
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. If you have a fish poacher, here is your chance to use it. Otherwise, use a roasting pan big enough to fit the whole fish. Put the fish in the pan and add enough water to almost, but not quite, cover the fish. Bring to a light boil. Pour out all the water.

2. Stuff the onion slices into the cavity of the fish, and put all the other poaching ingredients and the cheesecloth bag of seasonings into the pan. Add the same amount of water you used in the first step. Bring the pan to a light boil, then lower to the point that only the occasional bubble breaks. Poach the fish for 30 minutes. Remove the fish to drain. Strain the poaching liquid and set aside. Dispose of the vegetables and the cheesecloth bag.

3. When the fish cools enough that you can handle it, remove the onions and fillet the fish. Cut the fillets into pieces about the size of your finger.

4. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and parboil the potatoes and carrots for about five minutes. Drain and reserve.

5. Sauté the salt pork or bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until well browned. Add the onions and fennel and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the potatoes, carrots, and the fish-poaching liquid or the oyster liquor. Bring the pan to a light boil and cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender.

6. Add the fish and the half-and-half, lower to a very light simmer, and cook for about ten minutes. Add the oysters, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook for another two or three minutes. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Serve in wide soup bowls with plenty of the sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley and sliced green onions, and serve with hot French bread.

Serves six to eight.

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