for the love of cod

cooking for one... or two

Categories: Soups, Dinner for Two, Supper, Lunch, Sources, Posted on March 15, 2021 by Sandy Bergsten

A dear friend is writing her second book. She reached out because she hit a roadblock and wanted my opinion. She is brilliant in the way she can take extremely complex topics and break them down in a way that ordinary people can grasp. Her dilemma was between being “true” to the essence of her subject and being perceived as dumbing it down so the average Joe could understand.

I offered her an analogy… soup. Soup is simultaneously simple and vast. Techniques run the gambit from opening a can to days of expert preparation. Plus what type are you talking… bisque, consommé, chowder, stew, broth, stock. The list is pretty endless. 

The point I was making is that the best soup is one that a person will actually make. Certainly there are people with the time, skill and refrigerator space who will begin by creating their own stock. Browning the bones and caramelizing the vegetables, then simmering and skimming under a watchful eye. A well-made home-made stock is something to behold. Purists will say it is the necessary base for any soup, and deviation or substitution is heresy.

For most, demanding they create their own stock would mean they would never make soup. Personally I’d find that a shame. Homemade soup is a perfect pleasure. It fills the kitchen with inviting aromas, satisfies unknown cravings, and even soothes the soul. And it’s pretty simple to master. If you break it down, you really only need to do four things. Sauté an onion (and maybe some other vegetables such as celery, a carrot, or diced potato), and a liquid (stock, broth, water), simmer until all is tender, then either puree or leave as is and add some rice, noodles and some protein if you like.

With the icy north winds blowing I’ve been craving fish chowder. Chowder in its essence is a simple affair. And one of the simply best fish for this is cod. The fishmonger at my grocery store sells 8-ounce flash-frozen portions. Meaning whenever the mood hits, I can have a homemade bowl in about forty minutes.

But you might be asking don’t you need fish stock? The simple answer is no. You could use one-part water to one-part clam juice. In a pinch you could use canned chicken broth, but I don’t really recommend that. The better option is this great product called “Better than Bouillon”. These concentrated bases are the bomb. I keep jars of the roasted chicken, beef, vegetable and fish in my frig. So whenever I need all day cooked flavor I just spoon a teaspoon into a cup of hot water and voilà. 

For the fish chowder cut two slices of bacon into half-inch pieces and brown in a medium soup pot over medium heat until crisp. 

With a slotted spoon transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and set aside.

To the bacon fat add one medium diced onion and two small diced Yukon gold potatoes and sauté over medium heat until the onions have gone translucent. Add a pinch of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and a ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika (be sure to use smoked paprika instead of regular paprika you’ll be amazed how it imparts a wonderfully subtle smokey taste.)

Pour in a half cup of white wine and bring to a boil. Add four cups of fish stock and a bay leaf, bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.

Cook until the liquid has reduced by a third and the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. 

Add one cup of frozen corn and a quarter cup of heavy cream. Simmer until it heats through and thickens slightly. 

Add a half pound of cod in one piece. Simmer for five minutes. 

Stir in one tablespoon of chopped Italian parsley and the reserved bacon. With a spoon break the fish into pieces. Taste for seasoning.

Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread. This easy chowder is as comforting as a favorite sweater.

And if you’d like to make your own stock, Michael Ruhlman, another dear friend and gifted writer is the certain master. Be sure to sign up for his awesome bi-monthly newsletter (his current one is on stock).

And if his cookbooks aren’t on your kitchen library shelf you’re missing out.

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