While cleaning out the produce bin in my fridge last week to make lentil stew, I had potatoes and squash left over for dinner the next night.
Luckily I had plenty of meat and fish in the freezer, which also needed organizing. With both turkey kielbasa and cod fillets on hand, this chowder seemed like an obvious choice. As confirmed by the author of the recipe, any fish with white flesh works in this context.
Because I had tiny potatoes harvested from a friend’s field, I skipped peeling them. Instead, I cut them in half and cooked them until tender, before the skin started to slip, which I don’t like in soups.
For the fish stock, I substituted Better Than Bouillon brand lobster base, mixed with boiling water. It has that extra whiff of brine that forces me to keep it on hand. To thicken this up more like classic clam chowder, I added a few teaspoons of potato starch to a slurry with about 1/2 cup of milk.
I also browned the kielbasa slices before adding them to the chowder in the last two minutes. This extra caramelization kicks the flavor up a notch and dulls some of the texture of the processed meat.
My kids loved it, pronouncing it “really tasty”. For a vegetable, we all had a serving of homemade sauerkraut, a traditional accompaniment to both Polish sausage and potatoes and well received at this meal.
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Lake Erie Perch Chowder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow or white onion, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
1 liter of fish or clam broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped marjoram
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lb skinless yellow perch fillets, cut into pieces
6 to 8 ounces Polish kielbasa, sliced
1/4 cup freshly chopped dill or flat-leaf parsley
1 cup sour cream, for garnish
In a Dutch oven or other heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter stops foaming, add the onions and cook gently until soft and translucent; do not let them brown.
Add potatoes and stir to coat with butter. Cook 1 to 2 minutes so that the butter soaks up a little. Sprinkle everything with salt. Add the fish stock, 2 cups of water and the marjoram; Season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Once the potatoes are tender, add the perch and kielbasa; simmer another 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the dill (or parsley). Pour into bowls and let everyone add the sour cream at the table. Serve with plenty of beer and crusty bread.
Makes 8 servings.
“Hook, Line and Supper Recipe,” by Hank Shaw (H&H Books, $32.95).