As I mentioned in my last post, we had my in-laws to stay for a few weeks and were able to celebrate my brother-in-law’s 42nd birthday with friends, 16 of us to be precise. For this special event, I made a Narragansett Fish Chowder for starters, stuffed smoked salmon parcels for an in-between course, and then smoked chicken and salads for the main course. I had Sally and Em bring the desserts – very clever on my part as they were both delicious. All recipes will follow in due course!
Before I tell you more about the wonderful fish chowder I made, I would like to introduce you to my adorable brother-in-law, Lars (right in the photo). Don’t give up – the fish chowder is worth waiting for! We have always had loads of fun with Lars and will hopefully continue to do so! He and my in-laws joined us in Lisbon back in our sailing days, and they sailed with us for a week or two along the Spanish and Portuguese Algarve’s in the Mediterranean. Lars suffered a little seasickness (due to reading below deck despite other instructions, so no feeling sorry for him!) so Joerg gave him a metal bucket to throw up into and although nothing came up, the noise reverberated in the bucket and we laughed ourselves silly. Come on, it was really funny.
Then we gave him goggles in one of the beautiful Med bays that we anchored in and sent him off for a swim. Next thing you know, he imagined to have seen a shark, all 4 limbs were thrashing about but he wasn’t moving from the spot! Synchronized movement of body parts was then discussed under peals of laughter.
We did a few overnight sails and Lars decided to keep me company on the night watch. Well, it does get a little boring sitting in the pitch black cockpit, so Lars decided that we should tell ghost stories. He put on his hood and started to tell stories in a deep voice and thereby scared himself and me so much that we sat huddled in a corner, holding hands, till my husband came and rescued us.
But the funniest event was on the day of their departure. We all dressed up nicely to go out for a meal, and as I stepped off the boat, the strap of my handbag broke and fell into the harbor water. “All the money and your rental car keys are in there!” I yelled. So my very brave (it was daytime) brother-in-law sprung to life to save the bag. He put one foot onto the dock and one foot onto the boat…for those of you who have never sailed, this action creates the effect of pushing the boat away from the dock, and so you end up doing the splits until you are completely extended. And then you fall into the water.
There was a boat docked in front of us with a group of Scottish lads working on it. They all started clapping and calling out scores. “Nine!” one shouted, “nine and a half” another chimed up, “eight and three quarters”, yet another called. Poor Lars was in the murky harbor water (with my bag thankfully) and we couldn’t help him out as we were all laughing so much! Strangely enough, he never really took to sailing did Lars.
Fish Chowder is well in keeping with the sea theme - I can always somehow manage to get back to my recipes, even if I take the absolute longest route to get there! I have tasted many a chowder, but this one is the best as far as I’m concerned. The original recipe comes from my beloved US friend, Peg, who got it from the incredibly fun and crazy Pam up the road, but I have lost it’s trail beyond that. A tidbit of information: the Narragansett tribe are a native American tribe and were the leading tribe in New England many centuries ago.
FISH CHOWDER THE NARRAGANSETT WAY
As you can see in the photograph, I served my chowder in bread roll baskets. I scooped the bread out of the middle of little ciabatti (Italian) bread rolls and then baked the shells in the oven for 10 minutes, so they were a little crusty. I had hoped that the soup would be maintained inside the shells, but it seeped out, so I added more liquid around the bread boats and everyone loved it.
The original Narragansett Fish Chowder recipe calls for a ½ pound of butter(!), a pint of cream and cans of evaporated milk, which I am not sure were a staple of the tribal people, but this is a New England recipe that can’t be beat. I have altered it a little too much to call it the original Narragansett Chowder, but it’s just as good with a little less calories.
I have added the clams, cream and butter in the original recipe as optional extras – I left them out as I felt they weren’t necessary for flavor as my chowder tasted great without them, but you can decide for yourself. I had it New England with these added and it was great too. Oh yes, I left out the clams as I couldn’t find any here in rural France!
1 tbsp oil
1 cup / 250ml chopped bacon (lardons in France)
3 – 4 large onions, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 – 6 large potatoes, diced
4 cups / 1 liter fish stock (SEE NOTE)
Salt and pepper
2 – 4 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 – 2 tsp Tabasco
1 – 1 ½ kg (2 – 3 pounds) white fish, chopped
4 cans (12 fl. oz) evaporated milk
1-2 cans clams
1 pint heavy cream
½ pound of butter
NOTE: You can use water, or water with fish stock powder or cubes, or clam juice instead of fish stock. Stock can be quite salty, so be careful adding salt if you use bought stock.
1. Sauté the onion, bacon, garlic and celery till slightly softened, then add the cubed potatoes and stock or water and simmer till they are almost soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the Worcester sauce, salt and pepper, Tabasco, chopped fish (and clams and butter if using) and evaporated milk and simmer very gently for 20 minutes. If you are adding cream, do so just before serving.
Your chowder is ready to serve and be enjoyed!