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.
You'll see.

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.



SarahBTT said…
I can't wait to make this! Looks like my kind of meal.
Susan..... said…
Great looking soup. I am with you on no cream in a fish soup but not because I need to fit into my swimsuit. While potatoes make a great thickener (Jacques would be proud), Diabetics can't embrace them, so I puree white beans and use that for everything. I cook a full bag in my slow cooker overnight and store bags in the freezer. You can't beat the flavor of full leaf spinach. You should try this dish with monkfish, next time, if you think the cod is nice.
Natalia said…
Mmm.. a great soup for March, when it's still chilly outside. I've always wanted to try a fish chowder and since your recipes always turn out very well for me, will give this one a try. I've been cooking more with fennel and leafy greens, so I'm sure this soup will taste fabulous.
Ciao Chow Linda said…
Oh yes, I've got to try this. I do love cream in a chowder, but this would be so much healthier.
Beautiful soup and perfect for this weather, and it's nice and healthy!
Anonymous said…
Going to try this soup tonight. Also wanted to post that I tried Noosa at your suggestion and the whole family loves it. BJ's sells a mixed case of 12 in the blueberry, lemon and raspberry flavors. Thanks!
Lisa from Sag Harbor
Ciao Chow Linda said…
I made this for dinner last night and loved it. Thanks for posting.
Jessica C. said…
I made this for my husband and one of our best friend's, a real foodie and quite the chef. Having not made this before, I was concerned I might mess it up. Nope. It was GREAT. Took some effort but loved how the potato starch thickened the soup. Really light, FULL of flavor. I'll be making this again!
Myra said…
Oh my! This was so good and so easy.
My family loved it! Thank you for all your delicious recipes.

Patsy said…
OK...I got a little inspired with this. It sounded amazing in it's basic form. But I decided to give it a few twists: added in one link of dried chorizo (finely chopped), some roasted hot cherry peppers (mixed with the regular peppers), a cup of corn and some littleneck clams. A big hit!