Updated: Oct 18, 2022
Cutesy names, whether for boats (e.g., “Pier Pressure”) or recipes (“The Big Chili”), are often annoying. And yet sometimes they’re dead-on.
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Why "Nantucket Chowder?" Because of THIS, from Melville's MOBY DICK, Ch. 15--
“...a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word ‘cod’ with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.”
So, all we’re doing here is combining the aforementioned two soups into one… and, with arguably cute nomenclature, honoring its source. (Mrs. Hussey's fictitious soup joint, the Try-Pots Inn, was located on Nantucket.)
Nantucket Chowder for 8 (or More)
Large Frying Pan or Sauce Pan
2 Pounds or so of Cod Loin, cut into 8 Pieces
1 lb. Container (or more) Chopped Fresh Sea Clams (avoid canned clams)
4-5 oz. Pork Belly, ¼” Dice
4 Medium White Potatoes, ½” Diced and kept in Water
2 Medium Yellow Onions, Chopped
4-6 Medium Stalks of Celery, Chopped
1-2 Bay Leaves
Pinch of Dried Thyme
1 Pint (or more) Heavy Cream
Clarified Butter (for Sautéing)
Potato Flour (if Needed for Thickening)
Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley (for garnish)
Add the cod sections to the large saucepan and cover with just enough water. Gently simmer for 12-15 minutes, then carefully remove cod from the water and set aside.
In the large pot, sauté diced pork belly over medium heat with clarified butter. When the pieces begin to crisp, add onions and cook until they are soft and translucent. Then do the same with celery. Add clams with their juice and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the potatoes and just enough of their water along with the bay leaf and thyme and simmer until the diced potatoes are sufficiently tender. Remove bay leaves.
Depending on how much thickening is desired, strain off either a little or a lot of liquid into a large saucepan, bring it to a boil, then reduce as needed. Add cream as desired and reduce a little more, carefully enough to avoid boiling over. Want your chowder significantly thicker and still gluten-free? Reach for that potato flour I had you purchase for the hash browns/potato pancake hybrid and make yourself a roux using potato flour in place of all-purpose (wheat) flour. Whisk this back into the reduced broth & cream mixture, then add THAT back into the large pot of soup. If you want it even thicker, repeat this process. How about richer? Add butter to your heart's content (I'm into irony) and lovingly stir it in. This chowder recipe will readily swallow most of a stick.
Portion chowder into individual bowls and then add cod sections to each serving. They should flake quite easily, which is why we don’t cook them with the soup the whole time. And fear not-- they'll also heat up quickly in the hot chowder.
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This is a very substantial soup, and for many it might constitute a main course. If so, then Muscadet– a crip, dry white wine from the mouth of France’s longest river– would be a perfect accompaniment.
In lieu of chopped fresh clams, do as Mrs. Hussey surely did-- steam your own, preserving the precious broth to use instead of mere water in this soup.
Seriously– avoid using canned clams. They come from God-knows-where and are chemically treated with God-knows-what.
No pork belly, no problem– thick-sliced, high-quality bacon works just fine.
And finally, I searched all of cyberspace but couldn't find another chowder recipe that uses potato flour. Looks like we're on the cutting edge this time.