Manhattan fish chowder is perfect for any season, but I particularly like to serve it during the transitional time of the year. I wanted something colorful and “fall-ish” to remind me that cool weather is around the corner, but I’m not quite ready for a heavy soup yet.
Fresh thyme is an absolute must in this chowder. Thyme is found in Provencal & Mediterranean cuisines and pairs well with the tomatoes. The flavors of the fresh thyme really sing in this chowder. The bacon flavor also comes through, so be careful not to choose an overly smoky bacon such as hickory. It will end up dominating the chowder. A French baguette or toasty slices of bread are perfect to dunk in the chowder.
The base of the chowder can be made in advance and held for several hours until you are ready to serve. Simply heat, add the fish and let it heat through, and you’re good to go. We’ve tossed in a few grilled shrimp and sea scallops to jazz it up a bit, but it’s equally good on its own.
Manhattan Fish Chowder – spiffed up with a shellfish garnish
Adapted from Everyday Food’s Fresh Flavor Fast – serves 6
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into ¼” pieces (we used a mild apple wood smoked bacon)
1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled & halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise, yielding 1 cup
1 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes in juice
2 8-ounce bottles clam juice
2 medium baking potatoes, about 1 ½ pounds, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped (less if you don't like thyme)
1 pound skinless tilapia fillets, or other firm white fish, such as flounder, sole or halibut
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 large shrimp, peeled and grilled & 3 large dry pack sea scallops, sautéed briefly on both sides in a little canola oil, then cut in half horizontally.
In a large 5-quart pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium-low heat until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove bacon and set aside. Spoon off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat. Add the onions and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Break up the tomatoes either with your hands or with kitchen shears, then add tomatoes along with their juices, clam juice, 1 ½ cups of water, and the reserved bacon. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the potatoes and thyme; reduce heat to simmer, and cook uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, but not falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, the chowder can be covered for an hour or two before proceeding with the recipe.
Tilapia fillets have one thick side and one thinner side. To cut, halve the fillets along the center line before cutting them into chunks. Add the tilapia chunks to the chowder, cover, and cook until the fish is opaque and flaky, about 3 minutes. Season chowder with salt and freshly ground black pepper. With a ladle, spoon solids into six soup bowls, then add the liquid around the solids. Garnish with the shellfish if desired Serve immediately.
This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.