Saturday, July 30, 2011

Finkrals' Fish Chowder: Simple & Delicious

Our guest chef, Linda Finkral of Lambertville, NJ
 assembles the ingredients for her favorite Fish Chowder recipe.
One of the reasons that we decided to start a food blog was our belief in, and understanding of, the influence and importance of our food culture in shaping our lives. Food, and more specifically our Italian American cuisine, was at the center of every personal or family milestone: we celebrated with feasts during good times such as birthday, weddings and holidays;  consoled our neighbors during times of mourning with deliveries of lasagna; and comforted an ailing child with pastini soup. Understanding our food culture is a way of understanding our own personal history. 

Not only do we enjoy sharing our history with others, we love learning more about the food culture of our friends and fellow foodies. So when our friend Linda agreed to share her popular Fish Chowder recipe, I asked her to include a little history along with the ingredients and "how to" steps. When the recipe arrived, it included Linda's unique perspective of someone who grew up on a farm in land-locked Iowa and became (along with other family members) what she calls "water seekers" - lured to life along riverbanks and shores."
I have been cooking since I was five years old on a farm in Iowa. I have 10 siblings and we had farm hands who lived there and we cooked for everyone.  I did not know fish was available in anything but a frozen block until I left home . Fish in Iowa came in frozen blocks and it was mystery fish.  To this day I do not know what kind of fish it was. Not a surprise  when you know my mother always called both pork and beef roasts "roasts", never describing which one it was, pork or beef.  It was after I left home that I had this awakening that her "roasts" were from two entirely different animals.
We had tuna fish casserole, or "block of fish" on Friday and always McDonald's fish sandwiches if we were away from home. That was the only seafood we had.  

Linda didn't encounter "real" seafood until after moving to Connecticut and attending a "Lobster Night" at a local restaurant. The "2 for $10" meal was a revelation.  Currently Linda has homes in both the river town of Lambertville, NJ and Eastham on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

When at her vacation home on Cape Cod, Linda often sources
fresh fish directly from the docks, and digs for her own clams.
(She's licensed in Mass.) 

Access to high quality fresh fish is paramount to creating great chowder. When in Jersey, Linda purchases her seafood from ShopRite in Flemington, NJ, where she often finds excellent deals on lobsters. The Friendly Fisherman in Eastham is her go-to place when on the Cape. On occasion she arrives before the fish, and waits for the boats to arrive with their catch. 

Lobster is often the centerpiece of the extensive entertaining Linda does at the Cape. So much so, that she purchases direct from a wholesaler. A license to clam allows for a hands-on approach to sourcing her her ingredients. 

 I dig claims pretty much every week.  I get steamers, quahogs and little necks on the bay beach a few steps from our house.  I also go to the ocean side to dig clams and mussels.  I make clam chowder that is full of fresh clams and real cream.  I strain the clam juice  through a cheese cloth to make sure there is no sand in my chowder.   I freeze clams and clam juice to use in the winter. 
As mentioned earlier, Linda is not the only family member to enjoy life near the water. 

I have a sister who lives on the water in St. Pete's Beach, Florida, one on a lake in the Ozarks, Missouri, one on a lake in Minnesota, one has a beach house in Corrona Del Mar, California, one lives on a river in Stillwater, Minnesota.  I also have a brother who has a house on a lake in Spirit Lake, Iowa. My son has a house across the street from us here on the Cape (he lives in Chapel Hill, NC) and my daughter has a house in Nantucket (she lives in Mexico).  So we are all water seekers.  It is in our genes.

Linda states that this Fish Chowder, a combination of a few recipes, is the best she has ever made and a staple of many gatherings of family and friends.  She uses large (21-25 count) shrimp  that she often cuts in half and recommends a rough cut on the vegetables.

Thank you Linda for a delightful family "food" story and a great recipe. 

This creamy chowder is a sure-bet crowd-pleaser.

Finkrals' Fish Chowder

8 slices bacon
4 Tbs butter
3 large onions
3 stalks celery
5 cloves garlic
4 large potatoes (rough chop)
1 Tb. chicken bouillon
2-- 13 oz cans evaporated milk
2 cups half and half
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 TB salt
2 tsp white pepper
½ tsp Tabasco sauce
1.5 lbs cod cut in small pieces
1 lb shrimp- cut in half depending on size (21-25 count)
½ lb scallops  (cut smaller if necessary.)
Cook bacon until very crisp.  Leave 3 TBS bacon grease in pan.  Add butter and sauté onions, and celery.  Add garlic and cook until celery is soft.    Add potatoes and enough water to cover. Stir in chicken bouillon. Cook until potatoes are done and most of the water is gone.  Leave the lid off.   You have to watch them at the end when the water gets lower.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook just below boiling point for about 5 to 10 minutes.  Do not over cook the seafood.  Do not let it boil.   Cool and refrigerate overnight or serve immediately.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Linda - I am making this chowder right now for a dear friend who has lived in Colorado for many years but her heart is in New Jersey. She was diagnosed with colon cancer yesterday, she is 92 years old, and her family is due in. I have a question, do I chop and add the 8 slices of crisp bacon to the chowder, or is the 3 tbls of bacon grease the only part of the bacon I use? Thanks.
    Peggy in Colorado