In the fish markets in Italy, truly local seafood is labeled nostrani “ours.” The idea is to make this hearty, delicious chowder using the best of your own local ingredients, given the season, what you catch, and what you can find at the market. Where I live in Minnesota, the local fish probably would be walleye, along with sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. Any common winter-caught fish will do, though. Pike and burbot are wonderful as are crappies, bluegills, or perch. I serve a cold, crisp white wine and buttery French bread with the chowder.
To serve about eight . . .
4 oz. bacon
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 med. potatoes, peeled and diced
2 c. homemade chicken broth or low- salt canned broth
1 bay leaf
2 c. whole milk
1/2 red and 1/2 green pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
4 or 5 ears sweet corn–shucked with corn kernels cut from the cob to equal about 3 c. (or substitute frozen)
salt and pepper
2 c. fish cut into 1-inch pieces
chives, basil, and parsley to equal about 1 tbsp. chopped–use one or a combination
• In a large soup kettle, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon. In the same pan (with the bacon fat), add the onion and celery and cook over medium heat until soft. Meanwhile, chop the bacon and reserve.
• Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, stirring and cooking for about 3 to 4 minutes.
• Add the potatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf , a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.
• Add the milk, sweet peppers, corn, and walleye. Cook the soup at almost a simmer, about 8 to 10 minutes, but don’t let it boil again. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste and, possibly, a dash of tobasco or a splash of wine.
• Just before serving, stir in the bacon and the herbs–or just sprinkle them on top.
*Lucia Watson owns Lucia’s, one of the Twin Cities’ best restaurants, a lively, friendly, cozy place in the Uptown section of Minneapolis (1432 West 31st St., 612-825-1572). Drop by and say hello.