DANG, it got chilly quick. All of a sudden I’m pulling out my coat and scarf whenever I take Daisy out for her morning walk. It’s the perfect kind of weather for a steaming bowl of clam chowder. But I didn’t have clam chowder, and I did have tilapia, so I wung it and scrapped together a pretty damn good bowl of fish chowder!
I say I wung it because I didn’t follow a recipe at all, I just threw stuff together. I was not expecting much. Onion, potatoes, straight-up water, tilapia, cream, and salt and pepper, that’s it. I’ve never even HAD fish chowder before. And BAM, that stuff hit all the spots in all the right places.
The onions gave a nice depth of flavor, the potatoes provided texture and thickening, and the tilapia rendered a clean, slightly fishy broth when poached in the water. And the cream… made it creamy.
I could have done more, sure. There could have been celery and bacon and Worcestershire sauce and clam juice and fish stock. I was honestly expecting to have to build this recipe up before I posted it.
But it was kind of a fish chowder zen. Ultimate simplicity. Nothing fancy, ingredients or techniques. Basic. And it took maybe ten minutes of prep and twenty minutes of cooking. Boom.
You know the best thing when it’s cold? A bowl of chowder, a blanket, and a good book. 1
A philisophical querstion: What do you eat chowder with?
SPOON. : D That guy knows where it’s at.
FOR THE NERDS
Even though chowder is mostly associated with sea fishing and the East coast, there’s absolutely no reason it can’t be a part of a sustainable local cuisine in the landlocked Kansas City area. The New England style with clams, especially, has become familiar across America. That and the fact that modern chowder seems to have a distinctly American pedigree make it a prime candidate for transcribing into a locavore version.
All of the things here could be produced locally. Potatoes. Onions. Cream. Tilapia. Parsley.
Clams don’t make the cut because I’m as far from the coast as you can get here in Kansas City, but surprisingly, fish chowder turned out just as tasty as clam chowder!
Tilapia are not native to the U.S., and because they require warm water, are difficult to raise outdoors in temperate climates. But indoor aquaculture is becoming a more and mor attractive proposition, both environmentally and financially. Tilapia are suited well to aquaculture because of their tolerance to crowding. They also eat a vegetarian diet, leaving a smaller environmental footprint than species that require a high-protein diet, like trout.
That said, if you want to make this chowder entirely local by using trout, bass, perch, catfish, or other local fish, I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be done in exactly the same way. I bet it’ll be delicious.
EAT IT, NERDS! IT’S FREAKING FISH CHOWDER!
It’s ridiculously easy, it didn’t come out of a preservative-laden can, and it tastes like the sea, if the sea were made out of fish and potatoes and cream.
Real food, chowderheads.
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 1/2 lb red potatoes, quartered
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 quarts water
- 3 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 lb boneless tilapia filets (no need to thaw, if they are frozen)
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
- In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, stirring occasionally until translucent.
- Microwave the potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl until tender, about 5 minutes. Add to the pot.
- Add the water, salt, and pepper. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Taste and add more salt or pepper if necessary. The soup should be almost overseasoned at this point, because we're about to add a pound of unsalted fish.
- Add the tilapia. Stir gently to make sure the filets aren't sticking to each other, then cover and simmer for five minutes. Stir again and test the biggest tilapia filets with a fork. If they flake easily, they are done. If they don't flake, simmer another five minutes and test again.
- When the tilapia is done, break the filets up into large chunks with your stirring implement. Add the parsley and cream, taste and adjust salt and pepper one more time, and serve in big bowls, preferably with buttered bread on the side.