I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this or not, but a few years back I developed an allergy to shellfish. Not all shellfish, but a lot of my faves are no longer on my menu.
To live in New England, a summer oasis of ocean and seafood, it’s terribly sad for me to have this allergy. I have always loved all seafood. Luckily there’s only a handful I can’t eat, and there are still some things I can eat.
Clam cakes and chowder after the beach were one thing that I’d been missing in particular, so my heart did a little leap this summer when I was walking through Washington DC on my way to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, with the winner of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge from Virginia, Madeleine Steppel and her mom, Debra.
The most common question we all asked each other on that first day of our trip was, “Where are you from and what was your recipe?”
When I asked that question to Madeleine and Deb, I was thrilled by their answer: Fish Chowder. Madeleine had chosen to make a chowder that I could actually eat! When I asked Debra what was in their chowder, she said that any white fish would do. I was so excited!
Unfortunately, it took me five months before I had a chance to try out this recipe, just last week. It was one that Caroline had been asking for also, and she was so excited when I said I had everything for it.
The recipe was super-easy and didn’t take long at all to make. We substituted a couple of items to suit our tastes and our diet, but overall we followed her recipe almost to a T.
And let me tell you….I was in chowder heaven. It has been several years since I’ve been able to have chowder. I savored every.single.bite.
I went to school to work the school book fair after dinner. Then I came back and had a second bowl. That second bowl was all I could think about when I was at the book fair.
I already have plans to bring this chowder with me this summer to our annual Labor Day Weekend cookout, the one that’s almost entirely seafood, so that I too, can partake in the summer yumminess that I’ve been missing terribly.
One of the best things about this recipe was that it was easy enough that Caroline could handle almost the entire thing by herself. I chopped the onions (we both cried), and she did just about all the rest.
Below are the ingredients and directions, along with any notes stating the changes I made for us. I would definitely make this again.
And all summer long.
And on Labor Day weekend for our cookout.
And any time in between.
By Madeleine Steppel, age 9
Madeleine’s page in the recipe book states, “‘Senator Mark Warner’s recipe for ‘creamless’ Asparagus Soup, which I found in the Celebrate Virginia Cookbook, inspired me to create a chowder recipe,” said Madeleine, who used milk in this recipe because it is the State Beverage of Virginia. She would serve this with a fruity salad of spring greens, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, dried cranberries, and a citrus vinaigrette, with whole-grain bread.”
Makes 4-6 servings
3 white potatoes (about 12 ounces total) peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes. (My family doesn’t love potatoes, so I used a bag of steamed cauliflower instead.
1 pound bag of frozen peas and carrots, thawed (I skipped these.)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter (I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)
1 small onion finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups low fat milk (we used skim)
1 1/2 to 2 pounds skinless white fish fillet, such as bass, tilapia, or flounder cut into 2″ pieces (I used 2 one pound bags of frozen flounder from Aldi’s.)
Salt and white pepper
(I also added in 1/2 tsp dried dill weed for color and flavor, which is what my dad always does when he makes his chowder every summer.)
1. Place potatoes in large glass microwave safe bowl. Add enough cool water to just cover the potatoes, and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Add the peas and carrots and microwave on high until the vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the vegetables and set aside (or boil the vegetables until soft, about 8 minutes).
2. In a large saucepan over moderate heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and the garlic, and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Lower the heat to moderately low, add the flour, and whisk for 2 minutes to make a roux. Gradually whisk in one cup of milk and stir until hot and creamy, making sure to whisk out any lumps. Gradually whisk in the remaining three cups of milk and cook, whisking, until steaming hot, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the fish and the cooked vegetables, and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the fish is cooked through and flaky. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.