Looking for St. Patrick’s Day Ideas? Just click on “St. Patrick’s Day” in the categories section at right to find my favorites including Salmon on Caraway Cabbage, Irish Soda Bread with Potato Soup, Salmon on Colcannon, Colcannon Soup, Traditional Kerry Apple Cake, and more.
Living in land-locked Colorado, we might not expect Front Range cooks to spend a whole lot of kitchen time on fish. Sure we can bring home a few trout now and again — under 16 inches and no more than four at a time — and there are, of course, some other fish in our state. Sometimes we even order online or great fishing friends gift us a few fillets after a lucky trip. Overall, though, we’re mostly limited to buying our dinner fish at the nearest grocery, warehouse, or specialty-food store. It turns out, the warehouse buy is not such a bad deal. The prices aren’t too awfully difficult and you might as well buy frozen fish from the frozen department. It’s less expensive, often flash-frozen at sea, and most likely the fish behind the counter in the grocery seafood department was once frozen, too. For real savings and ease, I buy a bag of frozen, individually cryovaced fillets now and again, most recently mahi mahi –in Hawaiian, it means strong-strong — that came in under $30 for three pounds.
If you’re a regular reader, you might have read about the fish fajitas I made last week and yes, you guessed it, they’re mahi-mahi. Ready for FRIDAY FISH soup this week, I popped out two more 8-ounce fillets to make an herby and creamy chowder with a nice hint of tomato and an itty-bitty kick. Filling and healthy with chickpeas instead of the typical chowder potatoes, this vegetable-laden, high fiber, high protein stew comes together quickly and might take the place of clam chowder in your foreseeable future. Crusty bread? Butter? Cold oaky Chardonnay? Yes, please do!
A chowder, mostly from scratch, might sound like a lengthy proposal. It’s not. It’s also twice as fast if you’ve a food processor in your kitchen because there’s a lot to chop. The recipe ingredients list appears long, but once you’ve got that chopping done, there’s not much more work to do. Here are most of the basic steps:
Fish and Chickpea Chowder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- ½ small yellow onion, cut into small dice
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced and cut into small dice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small stalk celery with leaves, cut into small dice (or sub fennel)
- ½ sweet bell pepper-yellow, red, or orange- cut into small dice
- 1 small carrot, peeled, and cut into very small dice
- Handful fresh parsley, minced – plus more for garnish
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper- I use Morton’s salt.
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 5-6 cups fish stock* Or a quart of vegetable stock and 8 oz. clam juice (plus 1 cup water if needed)
- Drop or two of Tabasco or to taste
- 1- inch piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind-optional
- 15- ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 1 medium ripe tomato, cut into small dice
- 1- pound (16-ounces) mahi mahi without skin, cut into 1-inch pieces (can sub other firm white fish)
- ½ cup half and half or whole milk
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, or 2 tablespoons if you like a thicker chowder
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated for garnish
- PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 150 degrees F and place soup bowls on a rack set at the center to warm while you make the soup.
- SWEAT THE VEGETABLES: Heat the olive oil in a 6-quart dutch oven or soup pot over medium flame for two minutes. Add the pinch of crushed red pepper and cook for another minute. Scrape in the chopped onion, leek, garlic, celery, sweet pepper, carrot, and parsley. Stir well and season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper along with the thyme and bay leaf. Cover and cook 5-7 minutes until tender, stirring regularly and turning down heat if the vegetables begin to brown.
- POUR IN THE WHITE WINE AND TOMATO PASTE and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for several minutes or until the wine is mostly absorbed into the vegetables.
- POUR IN 5 CUPS OF THE FISH STOCK; add the Tabasco and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, if using. Cover, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for 10 minutes or so. Add chickpeas and diced tomato, cooking only until heated through. If the stew has become too thick, add another cup of stock.
- WHISK TOGETHER the half and half and cornstarch in a measuring cup. Slowly pour the slurry (the half and half mixture) into the pot, stirring all the while, and cook until slightly thickened.
- STIR IN THE FISH and cook gently 2-3 minutes or until fish is just cooked through and opaque. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings. Fish out the piece of cheese rind, if you've used one; discard. Serve hot in the warmed bowls garnished with reserved parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano along with a few more grates of pepper.STORE two days in the fridge, well-covered. Reheat over low flame without boiling. Do not freeze.
CHANGE IT UP?
Need a no-fish version of chowder? Nice idea for a veggie-packed soup. Use all vegetable broth, omit fish, and use 2 or 3 cans of chickpeas — or two cans of chickpeas and one can of cannellini beans.
Could you make this with chicken? I haven’t tried this particular recipe with chicken, but I’ve made a few different chicken chowders. Try this…. Dice patted dry, well-seasoned boneless thighs (or breasts if you must) and brown the chicken on both sides before you cook the vegetables (onions, celery, etc). Remove it to a plate to rest while you continue with the chowder. Use chicken broth in place of the fish stock. Add the browned chicken back in at the same time as the chickpeas and tomatoes in step #4. You might add 1/4 cup each frozen corn and peas at the sometime you return the chicken to the pot. Continue cooking as directed and serve hot garnished with grated Cheddar cheese and sliced scallions rather than Pamigiano-Reggiano and parsley.
STUFF TO READ:
As a soup aficionado, I have lots of soup books to scour through when I’m wondering about my next potful or want to dream quietly while snow falls. Like today! One of my very favorite volumes is an older one, SOUP: A WAY OF LIFE by the late Barbara Kafka. Fine cook, well-known columnist and internationally-acclaimed food writer, Ms. Kafka continues to be lauded for her cookbooks, perhaps especially this all-encompassing, encyclopedic soup book. While the recipes are beautiful, thoughtful, and diverse, this is a place where I’m also likely to look up some soup question I’m pondering. The answer is usually there. Published in 1998, there are still new as well as used copies available and well worth the purchase; this book weighs three pounds!
TIP: Do make sure to take your individually frozen fish fillets out of their plastic wrapping to thaw –either in fridge or in a bag in cold water– or you risk botulism. Read up here.
If you liked this, you might also like my:
LIFE GOES ON:
I had a great day this week teaching a St. Patrick’s Day Healthy Living Cooking class downtown at First Congregational Church. I’m way up in the left corner; the coordinator Chris Hall is in the right corner — and all the rest of these great, smiling, beautiful students, too many to name! Standing room only; I was so pleased at the turnout and the outcome. We made potato soup, the corned beef soup from my soup book, and two different soda breads, along with Kerry Apple Cake–an old favorite on the blog. I was scheduled to teach a similar class here last fall and had to cancel… I had Covid. Sigh. Thrilled to be back in this kitchen and will be up at bat again in October to teach a Fall French Dinner Party menu. Huge thanks to my husband and best sous, Dave Morgan, who toted everything in and out and stepped in to help whenever needed.
You can see why I like to teach at home!
I hope your St. Pat’s day is fun, that it’s all you need it to be, and am praying you’ll soon chowder up. Thanks for keeping me going, keeping me interested, keeping me learning, and mostly for keeping me company in my kitchen,