Fish Chowder

Serves 8 as an entrée

For the chowder base:

2 tablespoons water
3 ounces bacon or salt pork, cut into lardons
2 medium onions, medium dice
1 leek, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and sliced about 1/2–inch thick
2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
5 cups fish stock (or substitute 2 ½ cups clam juice and 2 ½ cups water)
1 tablespoon kosher salt, more to taste
2 bay leaves

To finish the dish:

2 large russet potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise, then sliced into 1/2 –inch half moons
1 ½ pounds white fish such as halibut, cut into two-bite chunks
1 ½ cups heavy cream, or to taste
White pepper to taste
Beer-Steamed Clams (optional, see recipe)

To prepare the base: Heat the water with the bacon or salt pork over a medium burner. Stir occasionally for five minutes, or until the water has cooked off and the pork is golden all over. Add the onion, leek and celery, and stir to coat in the pork fat. Continue to cook for five to seven minutes, stirring often, until the onions are translucent and smell sweet. Add the stock, salt and bay leaves. Bring the pot to a simmer, skimming away any fat or foam. At this point, the base can be chilled in an ice bath, then refrigerated or frozen for future use.

To finish the chowder: If the chowder base was chilled or frozen, bring it back to a simmer over a medium burner. Add the potato slices and salt, and skim the surface of the pot as it returns to a simmer. Cook the potatoes for eight to ten minutes, or until tender through. Add the fish and cream, then bring the pot back to a bare simmer. Adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper, and cook until the fish is just opaque through. If you wish to add clams to your chowder, see the recipe for Beer-Steamed Clams below. Serve immediately with oyster crackers or a loaf of crusty bread.

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