Husband John is addicted to fishing. He has no such passion for cooking.
He would happily fill a freezer with this season’s catch, and then buy another freezer before making a dent in his piscine loot. We have the same dilemma with venison, but that is another article. I am forever looking for new ways to cook his most frequent catch, crappie. Say “croppie”, please, despite the spelling. The name likely derives from the French crapet, meaning “sunfish.” A popular game fish, especially in the central states, it is also called Oswego, speckled, calico, or strawberry bass, or specks, depending on your region. Whatever the moniker, they are all in the perch order. White fleshed and mildly flavored, they adapt, fortunately, to a variety of cuisines.
This hearty soup is inspired by Manhattan clam chowder. It’s m
y preference over its New England rival, but the New England milk and butter base can be adapted just as easily.
- Olive Oil, a tablespoon or so
- Bacon, two strips, diced
- Onion, one large yellow, chopped
- Celery, two stalks, chopped
- Carrots, two, diced
- Garlic, one large clove, minced
- Chicken or vegetable stock, at least a quart
- Potatoes, a pound (about four,) peeled and cubed
- Diced Tomatoes, two 15 ounce cans, with or without flavorings
- White fish, about one pound of filets, cut into 1”-2” chunks
- A teaspoon of Tupper Lake Herb Blend, or your preference
- Salt and pepper to taste
What you do:
Slop a little olive oil in the bottom of soup pot over medium heat. Add diced bacon and cook until done. Remove bacon and set aside. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic to the flavorful fat in the pan and saute until they start to soften. Add stock and potatoes and let simmer until potatoes are getting tender. Add tomatoes and herbs and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes more, letting the flavors meld. If drinking white wine while cooking, throw a splash of that in, too. Add the fish and the reserved bacon near the end of cooking. The fish will cook quickly, so keep the heat low. The soup never needs to boil. It prefers to simmer gently, wafting seductive aromas throughout the house.
Serve with parmesan crisps, baguette toasts, or crackers.
Wise words about this chowder:
Soups are marvelously forgiving about omissions and substitutions, it’s one of their many charms.
- The soup works without the bacon or carrots, so don’t run out and buy them especially. Use a little more olive oil. Vegetable oil works if you don’t have olive oil. You can throw in frozen or canned corn in place of the carrots, if you like. Adds a nice bit of color.
- Onion and celery are necessary. Use the flavor-packed leafy bits of celery, too. Two stalks is a guideline; use four if you really like celery flavor. Use cooking onions, the kind that make you cry. Sweet onions are fine for raw use, but their delicate flavor fades in soups.
- Liquid stock is available in cans or boxes, bouillon cubes can be used, or opt for paste concentrate in jars. I prefer Better than Bouillon concentrate. It takes up little space, you control the strength of the stock, and it lasts for ages in the fridge.
- I use red “waxy” potatoes for soup because they hold their shape. Yukon Golds are good mashed, but they break down with prolonged heating and reheating. Use Russets for baking.
- Canned tomatoes come enhanced with all sorts of stuff these days- green pepper, basil, garlic, etc. Play around with the flavored ones as you like, but plain are fine. If using stewed tomatoes, chop before adding to the soup.
- Tupper Lake Herb Blend is my preference , but the other Adirondack Herb Blends vary the accent of the soup. Experiment at will.
- Almost any boneless white fish works in this recipe. I use crappie because that’s what tumbles out every time I open the freezer door. Gotta love that man.