Fish Chowder, or Why I Love New England So Much

I like to tell people I’m from New England.

I’m not.

I was technically born below the Mason-Dixon Line, in wild and wonderful West Virginia, but that doesn’t really stop me from pretending I’m a New England girl at heart. I don’t say “ya’ll,” I don’t eat barbecue, I cringe at many a Southern stereotype. As a child I was straight-up embarrassed to tell people I was a native. So funny, no? I prefer almost everything in a straightforward New England-y kind of way, with a healthy dose of independence and a willingness to wear navy for every occasion.

Though I will caveat that over the last few years I have come to embrace the joys of Southern culture and being a Southern girl … at least to some extent. Pearls? Yes. Big hair? No. SEC football? Definitely. Sticky sweet accent? Not a chance. I love Southern Living and the open-door culture. I’ll take a glass of sweet tea on a hot afternoon (though I’d give up the humidity in a second!).

I guess I’m a hybrid … a Southern girl with a strong streak of New Englander. Given the choice, I would probably live out my days on a lake in central New Hampshire, with weekend trips to Boston and the coast of Maine. But for now I’m here, deep in the heart of Tennessee, married to an Alabama boy with whom I am blending cultures, lives, and families each day.

These past few weeks I’ve been feeling particularly nostalgic about my summers in New Hampshire (where I spent almost every summer growing up, and several in college). It is “home” in a way that nowhere else will ever be – a home for my soul, my resting place, and my sweetest and saddest memories linger there.

In this house:

On this shore:

On these mountaintops:

So there are these little phases that I go through that fill me with a deep, deep longing to return … for the simplicity, the culture, the family. To drive down long windy roads that rise over mountains and veer around lakeshores, to stop at little shacks for soft-serve ice cream and fried haddock, lobster rolls and Sam Adams. It certainly isn’t all about the food, for my memories of food in the Northeast are drowned out by the family and friends that gathered around tables to celebrate and feast and toast with large bottles of wine until very late at night.

But the food was good, and is nostalgic, and my deep love for seafood comes straight from the coastal waters off our Northeastern shore that provided many a lobster, scallop, cod, and swordfish for our family feasts. Wandering through the store here in Nashville the other day (which sorely lacks a source for fresh, wild-caught seafood), I found a beautiful package of wild-caught pacific cod. Pacific, yes, but wild-caught in a sea of farm-raised made me happy enough to purchase and so I did.

And what to do but a very New-Englandy thing?

Fish Chowder
Based on this from Food & Wine

I was obsessed with clam chowder as a child. Tried it once from a can in the South and my heart sank. Fish chowder, clam chowder, whatever you prefer to be the seafood in your bowl of creamy-and-corny deliciousness, just make sure it’s fresh!

Also, this is not the best meal from which to take leftovers to work. For clearly obvious reasons that my fish-loving self did not even consider. The microwave at work still smells fishy a day later. Whoops.

Ingredients:

1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp butter
5-6 small red potatoes, diced
3-4 stalks of celery, diced
2 cups of frozen corn
3 cups of chicken or fish stock
bay leaf
red pepper flakes
fresh ground pepper
1 cup of half-and-half
1 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds of cod, sliced

To Do:

1. Saute butter and onions until fragrant and onions are translucent.
2. Add potatoes, celery, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, pepper, stock.
3. Boil until potatoes are soft.
4. Add half-and-half, milk, and corn. Let simmer 5-10 minutes.
5. Add cod and cook through (5-7 minutes).
6. Enjoy! Goes delightfully well with a crusty bread and a Sam Adams.

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