New England Fish Chowder

Unfortunately, I only ate seafood once during my recent trip to Seattle; wild-caught salmon chowder at Ivar’s while waiting for the ferry to Bainbridge Island. As you might expect, salmon chowder in the Pacific Northwest completely out-classes Chris Kimball’s chowder; with bolder and richer flavors. Still, Chris Kimball’s supermarket-cod-based Fish Chowder is worth making. It has nice, simple, balanced flavors. It is easy to make and doesn’t make much of a mess. The biggest problem is that my kids wouldn’t eat it, though it wasn’t overly fishy. 4 stars.

Delicious Fish Chowder

Incidentally, today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas; Three Kings Day. I am making my tamales again this year, and will let you know how it goes.


  1. One of those supermarket scanning errors meant I got my two pounds of cod for free; their scanner was supposed to take off $1/lb but instead took off a fixed $1/order. I’ve listed the recipe’s price as $14, which is what it would have cost had I paid the $6/lb sale price. Sometimes things just work out fantastically; a huge pot that fed me for 3 days cost just $2 to make.
  2. I’m definitely going to try this recipe with Salmon, though I won’t be able to buy fish of the same quality in my northeastern supermarket. I really enjoyed the extra flavor of the chowder I ate from Ivar’s.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $14.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 11:00 AM. Finish time 12:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared this today are given below:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 onions (about 1-1/4 lbs)
4-oz salt pork
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
5 cups water
2 pounds skin-less cod fillets
1-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch

  1. Cut onions into a large 1/2″ dice. Mince fresh thyme. Remove the rind from salt pork, cut into two pieces and rinse under cold water to remove the excess surface salt.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven set over medium burner. Add minced onions, salt pork, minced thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 bay leaf. Saute for 4 minutes until the onions become softened, but have not browned.
  3. Add 5 cups of cold water and bring to simmer.  Meanwhile peel and cut your potatoes into 1/2″ dice. Also slice your fish crosswise into 6 equal sized pieces.
  4. After reaching a simmer, remove from heat and put your fish fillets into water. Cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes. The fish will be nearly cooked and just opaque. Use a metal spatula to carefully remove from pot and place in a medium bowl.
  5. Return Dutch oven to medium-high burner, adding diced potatoes. Bring back up to a simmer, and cook uncovered for about 25 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender and begin to break apart.
  6. While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together 2 cups milk, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. When potatoes are tender stir in the milk mixture and bring back up to a simmer.
  7. Finally, add back the mostly-cooked-fish and accumulated juices into pot. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand for 5 more minutes.
  8. Remove the salt pork and bay leaf; discard. Stir chowder gently to break fish up into large pieces. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste. Serve immediately, garnishing with minced chives, crumbled bacon bits, or oyster crackers (Krispy is the preferred brand).

Ivar's on Seattle's Waterfront; next to the ferries


5 Responses to New England Fish Chowder

  1. Doreen says:

    You should make Cook’s Country’s Common Crackers to go with this! I make them with Their New England Clam Chowder or actually, any of their soups that are good with crackers.

  2. Tracey says:

    A logistically stupid recipe – “After reaching a simmer, remove from heat and put your fish fillets into water. Cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes…Use a metal spatula to carefully remove from pot and place in a medium bowl.” Unnecessary and hard to do successfully. And why would you? Simply add the fish at the very end, turn off heat, cover and let sit until fish is cooked through. Duh.

    • Tracey says:

      Oh, and why waste perfectly good salt pork? Mince, instead of dice, and leave it in – you’ve already rendered the fat, so you’re not adding calories. Or leave it in two big chunks as the recipe reads, fish it out at the end, mince it, fry it, and you’ve got a delicious garnish without the bacon bits. Waste not, want not (cheap Yankee, here).

    • Hi Tracey,

      I think you are right that it is more complicated, and you could easily pull it off as you’ve described. But I think the double-cooking method that Chris Kimball gives is a little more gentle and forgiving. Just as you double-fry french fries to ensure the interior/exterior are evenly cooked. The only difference is there is one extra plate to wash.

      I think the care Chris Kimball is asking for in removing the fish in Step 4, is because the 5 minutes in Step 7 is timed to whole fish fillets, whereas irregular chunks would cook unevenly.

      Thanks for your comments, though. Sometimes I think that Chris Kimball makes things overly complicated where there is very little difference.


      • Tracey says:

        Hi, Mark! Actually, I used Chris’s original recipe which reads,”2 pounds skinless cod fillets, sliced crosswise into 6 equal pieces.” The pieces were sort of irregular, but cooked to perfection added at the end. Tasty little recipe – I added some leftover king crab meat and we really enjoyed it.
        I also enjoy your blog – keep up the good work!


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