I was born and bred in New York, but my roots are in New England, so you might say that chowder is in my blood. My family has always made New England-style chowder by starting with whole cod or haddock on the bone, because the bones are the key to big, big flavor. On a weeknight in the twenty-first century, however, I know most of us just don’t have the time. So here’s a simpler version. (OK, this recipe requires an hour and a quarter from start to finish, but only 15 minutes of that is actual hands-on time.) And because all the ingredients are tightly sealed in one casserole, you can’t boil off the flavor. It’ll all be there to smack you in the face the instant you sit down to your bowl.
Makes 4 servings
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total preparation time: 1 1/4 hours
1 cup canned chicken broth or homemade Chicken Stock
1/3 cup white wine
2 medium boiling or Yukon gold potatoes (about 12 ounces), peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
8 thin slices Canadian bacon (about 6 ounces), chopped
1 teaspoon rinsed and dried fresh thyme or 1/3 teaspoon dried
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced and quartered
1 Turkish bay leaf
1 1/2 pounds cod, scrod, or halibut fillet
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon paprika, optional
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Spray a shallow 2-quart baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Bring the broth and wine to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Layer the potatoes, onion, celery, and bacon in the baking dish, seasoning with thyme, salt, and pepper between the layers. Pour the hot broth mixture over all, dot with butter, add the bay leaf, and cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Remove the bay leaf from the potato mixture; add the fish, and bake, covered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, gently heat the half-and-half.
To serve, drizzle the hot half-and-half over the fish. Spoon the chowder into bowls, breaking the fish into flakes with the spoon; sprinkle each serving with some paprika, if desired.