Smoky Fish Chowder

There are two things that my dad makes, one is scrambled eggs (especially on Christmas) and the second is fish chowder which he must have learned from his Mom, Ruth Moulton, who was a wonderful ye olde New England cook, or possibly from a guide on one of his fishing trips to Grand Lake Stream in Maine (where he still goes to fish every year). This is my modern cheating version of fish chowder.

Makes about 9 cups, 4 servings
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total preparation time: 30 minutes

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces Canadian bacon
1 medium onion
2 medium celery sticks
1 pound boiling potatoes, such as Yukon gold or Red Bliss
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 2/3 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock or canned broth
3 cups whole milk
12 ounces smoked trout fillets
Smoked paprika, for garnish
Chopped fresh dill leaves or parsley, or chopped chiles, for garnish (optional)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Medium chop the Canadian bacon (about 1 3/4 cups) and add it to the saucepan; cook it until it turns light brown, about 5 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.

Finely chop the onion (about 1 cup) and celery (about 1 cup). Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the onion and celery to the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes and cut them into 1/3-inch cubes; finely chop the thyme (about 2 teaspoons).

Add the flour to the saucepan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and milk and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly. Add the potatoes and thyme and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove and discard the skin from the trout. Break the flesh into bite-size pieces (a little more than 2 cups) and add them to the pan along with the reserved bacon; cook until heated through. Serve the soup sprinkled with paprika and chopped herbs or chiles, if using.

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