Michelle’s Fish Chowder

My Sicilian mom was a terrific cook.  In addition, truth be told, she was a harsh food critic—especially if the cook wasn’t Italian!

During the last two months of my mother’s life, she needed a 24/7 caretaker to help her.  Along with everything else to worry about, I dreaded the food situation because I feared the cooking wouldn’t be up to my mom’s standards.  Amazingly, I was more than pleasantly surprised one day to hear my mom talk about the delicious fish chowder that her caretaker, Michelle, had made for her.  This I had to taste!

On the next trip out to Boston, I had the opportunity to meet Michelle, who was heaven sent as a caretaker for my mom.  Despite my mom being quite ill from cancer, she still had her Sicilian sass going on.  Although I know it’s an oxymoron, Michelle was respectfully sassy right back.  They got along famously.

During my visit, Michelle kindly made the fish chowder for all of us.  She cooked like my mother—no recipe and eyeballing everything.  I, of course, watched with pen and paper in hand.  Michelle liberally sprinkled the fish with Italian seasoning, the secret ingredient in my opinion.  When Roger and I tasted it, we both agreed that it was one of the best fish chowders we’d ever had; and we’ve had a lot of Boston fresh fish and clam chowder.

This delicious savory fish chowder will warm you up on the coldest winter night.  I will be making it often—and whenever I make it, I will always remember Michelle and the care and comfort she gave my mom.

One year ago:  Microwave Fudge

Michelle’s Fish Chowder

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. cod or haddock
  • 1/8 plus 1/4 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • Garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. McCormick’s or Durkee’s Italian seasoning, divided
  • 1/8 to 1/4 to tsp. crushed red pepper (I use 1/8 tsp.)
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut bite-sized
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pennies
  • 2 cloves of garlic, medium-sized, minced
  • 1/4 cup each:  red, yellow and green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli, cut bite-sized
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup water mixed with 1 heaping tablespoon of flour

Directions

Cook potatoes separately in water seasoned with dash of garlic salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning so that potatoes will absorb seasoning and not be bland when added to chowder.

Place fish on plate and season with 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning.  There should be a good layer of seasonings such that the fish is dark with the Italian seasoning and pepper.  Set aside.

Sauté onion and carrots in olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for another 3 minutes or so, stirring frequently.  Add remaining bell peppers, broccoli, and corn and sauté for another 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened (test with fork).  Sprinkle vegetables with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.

Add fish WHOLE (do not cut into pieces) by layering on top of vegetables.  Cover pot.  After a few minutes, use a wooden spoon to stir around the sides and in the middle between the pieces of fish being careful not to break up the fish too much.  As you do this, try to bring some of the vegetables up on top of the fish.  Cover and let cook a few minutes more.

Mix together the 1/2 cup of water and heaping tablespoon of flour until there are no lumps.  Add to pot and mix in.

Add 2 cups of half and half and stir to combine.  Add potatoes.  Simmer, covered, on low for 5 to 10 minutes.  Serve immediately with oyster crackers.  Makes 4 servings.

Source:   An original recipe from Michelle, an angel in disguise sent to our family

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