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White Fish and Leek Chowder

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A rustic, comforting fish chowder that comes together easily and is ready in under an hour.

My new favourite chowder is fragrant and brothy, filled with chunks of haddock and tender white potatoes. A maritimer should always have a handy chowder recipe at the ready, however I’ve found that most are overly thick and cloying.

This white fish and leek chowder is rustic and wholesome, mostly because it features affordable fish instead of a pot full of seafood. However, if you’re looking for a shellfish extravaganza, try my Simple Cioppino or head straight for an East Coast Seafood Boil.

This simple recipe is more of a weeknight chop-and-simmer soup that comes together in about fifty minutes. The chowder inspiration arrived in the form of a beautiful cookbook Supper with Love from beloved Southern blogger Michelle Braxton. Read on for the recipe!

Three Cheers for Chowder

March is a tricky month for those of us who eat local. We are just holding on for spring asparagus and spinach, but filling our baskets with leeks, potatoes and cabbage. That is why this soup is so timely – it’s a true celebration of winter produce.

As I started this recipe for the first time, the fragrance of the leeks as sautéing in butter awakened my appetite, and by the time the chowder had perfumed our home, the family was gathering in the kitchen, drawn by the aroma. It’s such a delicious recipe and a highly rewarding dinner project.

Michelle insists on garnishing this white fish and leek chowder with hot sauce and I’m so glad she did. It’s an indispensable condiment for Southerners, but not the first thing I reach for as a Canadian-born Ukrainian! Don’t you love how a new cookbook expands the palate and the mind with one simple suggestion?

Supper with Love cookbook

Just when I was growing weary of the all chili and braises of January (just being honest here), Michelle’s book arrived and provided fresh dinner inspiration in the form of plant-forward and pescatarian recipes.

Michelle is one of my favourite follows on the ‘Gram and it was thrilling to watch her move through the process of writing a cookbook. I just knew it was going to be special.

The recipes are vibrant and accessable for home cooks with all skill levels; the photography is gorgeous. Supper with Love: Vibrant, Delicious, and Comforting Plant-Forward and Pescatarian Recipes for Every Day will nourish you body and soul.

Ingredients for White Fish & Leek Chowder

Once you are comfortable with the base chowder recipe, consider the ingredient list as more general guidance. I always encourage recipe adaptations, as it promotes zero waste and cooking creativity.

Fish: you can use haddock, sea bass, grouper, cod, or whatever flaky white fish you’ve have available. Remember this, the ‘best’ fish is alway the freshest fish you can get!

Potatoes: Yukon Golds is specified but any variety, red or white, will work nicely

Leeks: Leeks replace onions in this recipes and it’s an allium upgrade. Read my guide for buying, storing and cleaning leeks.

Stock: Fish or seafood stock is essential for this soup. Make it yourself or ask for it at your local fishmonger. I keep mine in the freezer, ready for chowder night!

Cream: Whole cream is swirled into the fragrant broth and bring a wonderful richness to the chowder. Don’t skimp! You can use half-and-half or coffee cream, in a pinch.

Corn: frozen is my choice, however, I am looking forward to making this soup again in August when fresh corn is available.

Variations on Chowder

This chowder is perfect as it is, however there are a few directions you the chef can take it, should you feel adventurous.

Fresh Herbs: fish pairs beautifully with delicate fresh herbs, so toss in a handful just before serving. I’m partial to dill, especially with the potatoes and cream in this recipe. It’s also lovely with a sprinkling of parsley, basil, coriander or tarragon.

Additional Seafood: I’ve bulked up this chowder with canned clams and they make a wonderful addition. If you have seafood to use up – shrimp, lobster tails, etc- by all means add it at then end with the haddock.

Veganize it! Recipe author Michelle gives these suggestions for a fully vegan chowder: Use cauliflower instead of fish, vegan wine or vegetable broth for deglazing, substitute vegetable broth for the clam juice, and use a neutral oil or nondairy butter, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and unsweetened nondairy creamer for the heavy cream.

Toppings: For a truly deluxe chowder experience, finish the soup with a sprinkling of crispy bacon and a grating of cheddar cheese.

White Fish and Leek Chowder

One last thing before the recipe: Taste. Your. Soup! Seasoning is what transforms a fish chowder from good to great – that’s it!

Taste it multiple times before you ladle it into bowls; it very well may need a hit of salt, squeeze of lemon or dash more black pepper. And I recommend serving the chowder with a tray of my Simple Pesto Buns.

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter2 thin leeks  white and light-green parts only3 cloves garlic minced1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine4 cups seafood broth or fish stock, vegetable stock1 cup clam juice1 pound petite Yukon Gold potatoes halved3 sprigs of fresh thyme1 bay leaf1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire saucefreshly ground black pepper to tastefine sea salt to taste1 cup sweet corn kernels fresh, frozen or canned1 cup heavy cream 35%2 8-oz haddock fillets or cod, halibut or other white fishFor servingblack pepperhot sauceoyster crackers saltines or rustic bread

Halve the leeks lengthwise, fan out, thoroughly rinse and pat dry. Thinly slice the leeks crosswise.Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and sauté until softened, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.Add the garlic and smoked paprika and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the vermouth and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Sauté until the alcohol has cooked off, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the seafood broth, clam juice, potatoes, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of each).Cover the pot and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes.Uncover, reduce the heat to low, and stir in the corn and heavy cream. Carefully nestle the fish fillets into the broth and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer undisturbed until the fish flakes easily with a fork and is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.Give the chowder a gentle stir, breaking the fish into nice-size chunks. Remove the pot from the heat (compost or discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs), Give it a taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.Ladle the chowder into individual bowls and top each with some grinds of black pepper. If desired, serve with your favourite hot sauce and some oyster crackers.

Recipe published with permission. Recipe is from Michelle Braxton’s new cookbook ‘Supper with Love’ published by Harvest Books, Spring 2024

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