What defines a chowder versus a bisque, versus a soup, versus a stew? There are defining differences between what the original versions of each dish were made to be, but the definition of each has been broadened so much over culinary history, that they have begun to run into each other. Some sticklers out there go crazy if you call something a bisque that isn’t puréed and thickened with rice or a chowder that doesn’t have potatoes in it. I say all of this because I am no expert on what defines chowder, but deep down in my soul… or stomach I guess, I know this is chowder and I’m sticking to it.
I like roasting my ingredients for soups and stews. I like the deep flavor you get from roasting and that the flavors don’t completely combine from a long simmer. This way when you take a bite of juicy corn, flaky cod or crispy bacon, each flavor is distinctive and only combine as you are eating them. Put all of those together with a rich creamy broth and hearty roasted potatoes, this chowder is fit for a meal and will have you wanting to crawl up on the table and go to sleep when your done.
1 lb Cod
2 Ears Corn
1 lb Golden Potatoes
4 Strips Bacon diced
8-9 Sprigs Thyme
2 Stalks Celery diced
1 Small Yellow Onion diced
2 Cups Milk
1 Cup Half and Half
2 Tbs Flour
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tbs Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 400º with a sheet tray in it.
Cut the corn from the cob and put it into a bowl. Dice the potatoes into 1/2″ cubes with the skins on and add it to the corn. Add the olive oil and toss the mix with salt and pepper. Remove the hot sheet from the oven and dump the corn and potatoes on it and put it back in the oven on the lower rack, for 30 minutes. The point of heating the tray is so you don’t curse at the potatoes later for sticking to it, they should brown and flip nicely now.
Oil another tray and put the fish on it. Dress the fish with the thyme springs, salt and pepper. After 20 minutes of the corn and potatoes roasting, give them a flip with a spatula and add the fish to the oven on the upper rack, for the last 10 minutes.
While all this roasting is going on, prepare the base. Heat a large pot and add the bacon. Cook the bacon completely and remove it with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. With the rendered bacon fat still in the pot add the onions and celery and cook until they begin to become translucent. Add the flour and stir so that it is coating the vegetables. Cook the roux for only a minute or so to remove the raw flour taste, but not to brown it.
At this point you can probably remove the fish and vegetables. Let the oven cool for a bit and then put the fish back in covered with foil to keep it warm.
Add the milk and cream in an even stream while stirring. If your milk and cream are cold and you add them all at once, you’ll cool down the entire pot and the flour will turn into lumps in the soup and more cursing will ensue. You can heat the milk and cream first to avoid this or just add it slowly so that you don’t suddenly drop the temp. Add the bay leaves and nutmeg and cook on low until it just begins to thicken, the potatoes will thicken the chowder further.
Add the roasted vegetables and season the chowder with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute. If it gets too thick you can thin it out with a bit of milk. Flake some of the fish to mix in, but save some large pieces to put on top of the chowder in the bowls. Top with the reserved bacon and serve.