I’ve been craving a good Manhattan Clam Chowder all winter. When the daughter came home from Hawaii professing a newfound appreciation for fish (and a boy… but that’s another story), I ran to the market to make this New York Times recipe… with a few… well several tweeks. Instead of clams (because the daughter was specific - fish, not seafood), I substituted a rockfish fillet that made this clean, fast and elegant. I worked with the vegetables in my refrigerator, including some amazing squash still left over from the South Pasadena Community Garden Harvest. Most importantly, I gave this chowder a West Coast Swing - I added our Lambrusco Wine Vinegar and limes from the garden… because comfort food needn’t put us to sleep.
- 1/2 pound white fish fillet - I like rockfish, grouper, halibut - but whatever looks the freshest at your fish counter is what you should buy…. and if you aren’t sure… ask the monger if you can smell it … sometimes the nose knows best. Rinse.
- 1 tablespoon butter OR 1 tablespoon BTO Coratina EVOO.
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat OR 3 tablespoons BTO Coratina EVOO. (I choose Coratina because its strong flavor holds up to all the other ingredients here.)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 large ribs celery, cleaned and diced
- 1/2 medium-size red or orange or yellow pepper, diced (let’s keep this colorful!)
- 1 medium-size carrot, peeled and diced
- The kernels cut off of one fresh corn.
- 1 cup cubed squash, pumpkin or zucchini
- Red-pepper flakes, to taste
- 6 small/medium sized potatoes peeled and cubed
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed or roughly diced
- Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon Lambrusco Red Wine Vinegar
- ¼ cup chopped parsley.
- Lemon or lime wedges
- Oil or spread the bacon fat over the bottom of a medium size stockpot. Lay the fish fillet down (whole). Add 2 cups of water which should cover the fish. Turn on low. When fish appears white, flip it over. Once thoroughly cooked, remove fish and water from pot and set aside.
- Return the pot to the stove. Add butter/remaining bacon fat or oil, and turn heat to medium.
- Add onions, garlic, celery, peppers, squash, corn kernels and carrots to the fat, and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are golden but not brown, approximately 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes, and continue cooking until they have just started to soften, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add all of the water from the fish, but not the fish. Add the sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf.
- Partly cover the pot, turn the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot to release their starch and help thicken the broth.
- Meanwhile, cut the fish into one inch cubes.
- When potatoes are tender, stir in tomatoes, and heat them through. Add fish, stirring to combine. Add black pepper to taste. Let chowder come to a simmer, and remove from heat. Remove the thyme and the bay leaf, and discard.
- The chowder should be allowed to sit for a while to cure. Reheat it before serving. Add the Lambrusco wine vinegar, then garnish with chopped parsley and lemon or lime wedges. Serve with garlic bread.