Creamy Seafood Chowder. A feast of delicious fish and seafood in a beautifully seasoned creamy broth. Makes for an elegant lunch served with fresh baguette or as in small portions as an outstanding starter course at a dinner party.
Many regular readers may find it a bit surprising that a Creamy Seafood Chowder recipe has not appeared previously on Rock Recipes. To be honest, it is because I sometimes associate this recipe with bad versions of seafood chowder that more resemble wallpaper paste than anything else.
Spouse, though she is the Soup Queen, does not like cream soups at all, so there’s rarely an opportunity to make them around here. I’m the opposite; when done well, cream soups and chowders can be my favourite.
This is quite a standard way to make a fish chowder but I thought I’d write the recipe anyway to give a few tips on getting it right. My first thought is don’t make your soup too thick. This recipe starts with a roux, a cooked flour & butter base that will serve as the thickening agent for the soup. I have kept the amount of flour to a minimum because I like a thinner version but if thick chowder is what you like, that step is where you make that happen with the addition of additional flour.
The real key to any successful creamy seafood chowder is not to overcook the fish. This is another reason why I don’t often order it in restaurants. There is no telling how long it has been sitting in a warming tray, which can slowly dry out the fish. Use fresh fish and seafood whenever possible, although, I must confess that apart from the mussels, the seafood on this occasion came from leftover odds and ends and trimmings from larger fillets that were in my freezer. If you have those hanging about, this is a terrific way to use them up.
If you are not a fan of creamy seafood chowder…and even if you are…there is also a recipe here for a beautiful broth-type chowder with the addition of a little spicy chorizo sausage that I absolute love. You should also check that recipe out by clicking this link for Manhattan Style Seafood Chowder.
Like this Creamy Seafood Chowder recipe?
- 4 strips thick cut smoked bacon , chopped small
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 small white onion , finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 tbsp flour
- 3 cups low salt seafood stock (some people prefer a light chicken stock)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
- 2 large bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp dried summer savoury (thyme can be substituted)
- zest of half a large lemon , chopped
- 3 lbs assorted diced fish and seafood. I've used cod, shrimp, salmon and mussels.
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
Crisp cook the chopped bacon in the bottom of a large dutch oven.
Remove the bacon and half the bacon fat.
Over medium heat, add the butter along with the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions soften but do not brown.
Add the flour and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the flour brown. If it starts to brown, add the seafood stock immediately to stop the cooking action, stirring constantly.
While stirring constantly, add the seafood stock.
Next add the milk, salt, pepper, bay leaves, savoury and lemon zest. Taste the broth to see if it needs additional salt.
Simmer the broth for 20 minutes before adding the seafood and simmering slowly for an additional 10 minutes. You really want a very gentle simmer. You are practically poaching the fish in this case. The result will be a much better presentation if the chunks of seafood remain whole.
Finally add the whipping cream to finish the chowder and just bring it back to the boil before serving immediately. I like to hold back little of the crisp bacon to garnish the top.
My presentation method is to use a slotted soon to remove the seafood chunks to the centres of shallow bowls, then add the broth around the rest of the bowl.
If you are using mussels in the recipe, you can keep them in the shell, especially if they are small but if you want to add them without the shell, simply steam them for only about 3 minutes until they open up. They can finish cooking in the broth when you addd them with the other seafood. This is my preferred method because I don't want to leave mussels that don't open in my chowder. You should always discard a mussel that does not open when cooked.
Some people prefer to add potatoes to seafood chowder. I sometimes do if serving it as a complete meal but mostly don't if I'm serving it as an appetizer. If using potatoes, choose yellow waxy potatoes and not starchier potatoes like russets or blue potatoes. Those will likely add additional thickening to the soup. I parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes, let them cool for a few minutes before dicing them into bite sized pieces. I add the potatoes during the last 10 minutes of the simmering of the broth.
If using fresh herbs in the broth instead of dried you can double the amount. (Except for bay leaves)