At my house, it’s currently ice fishing season, which for me equals panfish cooking season. And as much as I love having locally, sustainably caught fish delivered fresh to my table, there are only so many ways to cook the bite-sized perch, blue gills and crappies.
Yesterday with a free Sunday on my hands and nothing to do but watch the playoffs (Go Pack!), I detoured from our frequent fish fry and tested out a fish chowder. I based it on the tastes of a traditional New England Clam Chowder and was delighted with the results.
If you don’t have a fishing obsessed person in your house, you can easily substitute a variety of other white fishes such as tilapia, walleye, pike or even cod. Try to use whatever is local to your area to get the freshest catch and best flavor.
6 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
4 Tbsp butter
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 lb panfish (see substitutions*)
2 bay leaves
2 C clam juice
2 C chicken broth
2 C half & half
2 tsp corn starch
* Ideal substitutes would be other white lake fish, such as perch or walleye, but you could also use a mild white fish such as tilapia.
Chop bacon into small pieces and place a large stockpot. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then add butter, onions and celery. Add bay leaves and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables soften, about 5-7 minutes. Whisk in corn starch. Add clam juice, broth and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until potatoes cook.
Remove bay leaves. Add fish and half & half and cook for another 8-10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed to bring out flavors.
I served my chowder with some tasty homemade buttermilk biscuits that I gussied up with some bacon and cheddar because, well, who doesn’t love bacon and cheddar!
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
3 3/4 C flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp shortening, chilled
1 1/2 sticks butter, chilled & diced into small pieces
1 1/4 C buttermilk
1/2 C shredded sharp cheddar
4 strips bacon; cooked, cooled and diced
In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt, soda and powder. Pulse 4-5 times to combine. Add shortening and butter chunks, distributing evenly over flour. Pulse 15 or so times until mixture is slightly crumbly. Add bacon and cheddar and pulse 3-4 times. Transfer to a large both and slowly add buttermilk, working mixture together with a spatula until dough is slightly sticky.
Transfer to a clean, floured surface. Flour your hands and knead for 30-45 seconds so that dough becomes smooth. Reflour surface and roll dough into a large circle, about 1/2 inch thick. Use a 2 1/2″ round biscuit (cookie) cutter to cut each biscuit, taking care not to twist the cutter as you cut. This will prevent uneven biscuits. Place on a baking sheet.
Bake at 400 for 15-18 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve warm.