a beacon in the night chowda’

This is recipe makes me think about a cold rainy Summer day in Cape Cod. Let me set the scene; It was the 80’s and my family had decided to go to the Cape for our annual vacation. I had a ‘totally mint’ new pair of flashy red sunglasses, Bruce Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise” was playing nonstop on the radio that Summer (and I sorta new all the words) and my favorite partner in crime would be joining us on the trip. Good times were clearly on the horizon! And then the bottom fell out…

First I discovered that we’d be camping on the Cape— I hate camping. Secondly my cousin who had planned to come along got sick and bailed, so it was just pre-teen me and my parents. Ugh. And then it rained.

Rain is never fun on vacation. Rain when you’re camping on the Cape is even less fun, take my word for it. Rest assured we made the best of it and continued to sightsee and explore just as we would if the sun had been shining. (“What can I tell you? Let’s just make the best of it.” was such a frequently used phrase in our house I should have had it printed on a t-shirt.) However those damp Summer days actually did hold two bright spots for me; The first was finding an old-fashioned penny candy store where a couple of dollars could still buy you a boat load of sugary goodness and the other was a truly no-nonsense lunch we stumbled into one afternoon.

We had clearly spent the morning out in the elements ‘making the best of the situation’ because I remember being cold, wet and unhappy in a sulky pre-teen kinda way. We then piled back into the truck, destination unknown, when my father abruptly decided to steer the car down to the end of one of the docks, just to see what’s there. That’s when we found a tiny dockside shack that made and sold steamy cups of soup. New England, Manhattan and whatever the fisherman had caught that day Fish Chowda’. The rain drizzled down and seagulls swooped from piling to piling while we ordered and quickly took it back to the truck to stay dry. And then suddenly the clouds lifted, the sun shone through and like a beacon in the night or manna from heaven the soup instantly warmed us and lifted our spirits! (Okay so it wasn’t actually that dramatic. It in fact continued to rain and I was sandwiched between my parents eating soup out of a styrofoam cup with a plastic spoon. But… the soup was seriously delicious and it did warm my chilled body and make the remainder of my soggy day more tolerable. And frankly, that says something.)

So the moral of this story could be something like: It never hurts to try and make the best of a situation; don’t be afraid to suddenly take a new road or it is possible to find simple, delicious, perfection in a little styrofoam cup!

Fish Chowder with Bacon and Butternut Squash
This reminds me of summer at the Cape and works perfectly well with either haddock or cod.

cod chowder

5 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced small
4 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 tbsp. flour
1/4 cup cream sherry
3 cups fish or chicken stock
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 1/2 lbs. skinless haddock or cod fillets
1/2 cup heavy cream
cayenne pepper, for garnish

  1. Dice the bacon, add to a large stock pot and cook until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the diced onion, celery and thyme to the bacon fat and cook until the vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Add the flour to the pot and allow to cook until golden brown. Then add the sherry to deglaze the pan, being sure to scrape up any stuck on bit from the bottom.
  3. Stir in the stock, clam juice and butternut squash and allow to come to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer until the squash is just tender 10-12 minutes.
  4. Cut the fish fillets into large bite sized pieces. Stir in the salt, pepper and smoked paprika. When the squash is tender add the fish to the pot, cover and simmer until it flakes apart easily, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the cream and allow to cook for 2 more minutes.
  5. Serve with a hearty sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

*inspired by epicurious

tweaked up chicken-corn chowder

If you’ve ever read this blog before then you know how difficult I find it to follow a recipe exactly as written. Even when I set out to play by the rules, I find myself making a little change here and there. No recipe is safe from my tweaking including as it turns out, one of my own.

Last January I posted a Chicken-Corn Chowder recipe that was crazy delicious, but also a little on the heavy side. I suppose my rational was that when the temps outside are frigidly cold you want a comforting, hearty meal that will not only fill your belly but also make you feel warm and toasty inside. However since it’s Summer (and heavy and toasty is the last way I’m hoping to feel), I happen to have both heavy cream lingering in my fridge from my Julia Child homage and a container of leftover smoked chicken looking for reinvention, I thought I’d revisit this recipe and see if I could tweak it up a bit.

It turns out that by simply swapping a little diary for chicken broth, using canned creamed corn (I know, the blasphemy!) and kicking up the spices a bit I had a tasty and way less filling meal on the table in no time flat. I do so love when things fall into place! The original recipe is still a good one, don’t get me wrong, but this one it’s just a little bit closer to perfect.

Spicy Smoked Chicken-Corn Chowder
I used leftover smoked chicken (we’ve been on a bit of a smoking jag around here) but leftover roasted or store-bought rotisserie would work just as well.

chowder-revisit2

3 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/4 cups celery (about 3 stalks), thinly sliced
1 can mild green chilies (or diced jalapeños)
3 cups low-fat milk
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2-1 tsp. chipotle chili pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
3 1/2 cups leftover smoked chicken, shredded
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 15 oz. can small white beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can cream-style corn
shredded sharp cheddar cheese, for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over a medium flame. Add the garlic, onion, celery and chilies and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until corn and beans are tender and the chicken is heated through, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Ladle into bowls, top with shredded cheddar and serve with a side of cornbread. (I think this chowder is even better after its sat overnight so I usually make it the day before I intend to serve it.)

*adapted from cooking light and kerrygold.com