Lighten the Load: Fish Chowder sans Cream
Now that it's spring we need to lighten it up a bit, don't you think?
There's still a major chill in the air, so soups and stews are still the norm, but no one really needs to add heavy cream or milk to fish chowder (plus I never liked the idea of milk + fish).
I watched Ben Pollinger, the executive chef of Oceana in Midtown make this dairy free fish stew on the Today Show, and I was sold.
The directions are kind of odd, so if you are confused, click on the link and watch the video tutorial. It's really simple.
Believe it or not, there is no cream or broth added to this stew.
The flavor comes all from the fennel, onions and garlic infused with water.
The richness and thickness for the base of the stew is potato.
The recipe calls for 1 large Yukon Gold, but I had 4 small ones, and it worked out perfectly.
You will cook half of the potatoes w/ the fennel and onions, and the other half gets cubed and boiled to create a starchy mash.
A handful of spinach at the end for color and texture and you are set to go.
This took 30 minutes from start to finish. Just have everything chopped, and ready to go (mise en place!).
Here we go:
Fish Chowder sans Dairy: (adapted from Ben Pollinger via the Today Show) makes 4 generous portions
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 small head fennel, diced small about 1/4" pieces
1 large Yukon Gold potato, cut in half (or 4 small Yukon Golds from the bag)
1 small jar roasted red peppers, drained, sliced in ribbons about 1/2 inch wide
1/4 tsp red chili flakes (don't skip the hot pepper!)
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Chablis)
3 cups water
8 3-ounce pieces of sustainable cod
6 basil leaves, torn into pieces
1 cup packed baby spinach for finshing
Season the cod pieces w/ kosher salt & pepper and set aside.
Cut the potato in half (or divide the 4 small potatoes).
Cut one half of the potato into 1/4" cubes, the same size as the fennel, and set aside w/ the sliced onions and vegetables.
Cut the other half of the potato into chunks and place in a small saucepan with 1 cup of salted water.
Boil the potato chunks about 15 minutes or so until tender.
While the potatoes are boiling, get the stew ready.
In a large Dutch oven, add the olive oil.
Cook the sliced onions, sliced garlic, fennel and the rest of the potato pieces for about 5 minutes until fragrant.
Season w/ the hot pepper flakes.
Add in the 1/4 cup of white wine and cook until wine is evaporated, about 1 minute.
Now add in 2 cups of water and the roasted peppers and basil leaves. By now your boiled potatoes should be ready.
Mash the potatoes in the saucepan with a fork and add them, including any liquid that is left, to the stew pot. This is the starch that will thicken the stew (IT WORKS!).
Simmer this mixture 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
Add the cod pieces and simmer for 5 minutes only. The fish will cook quickly.
Taste and season w/ salt & black pepper.
Add in a bunch of spinach leaves (I don't like baby spinach, it has no flavor, I buy REAL spinach, the thick stuff), and ladle into bowls.
This was truly delicious and light.
We loved it.
I hope you do too.