I’ve never been to Cowichan Bay but my friend said they have a great halibut chowder there. So with the power the internet and my imagination I’ve attempted to recreate it.
I call this Pacific chowder because I made it using west coast seafood. I call this New England-style because it is heavy and creamy. I imagine ‘true’ west coast form to be lighter with a clear-ish broth because it’s probably difficult for one to do hot yoga when they are full of snow-shoveling fuel.
I made this chowder the long way by cooking a crab and making a stock out of the shells. One could save some time by buying fish stock/clam juice and pre-cooked crab meat. On that note, one could also add/substitute any type of fish based on personal taste/allergies, budget, and availability. I wanted to add scallops but I couldn’t find any good local ones today. I wanted to add salmon too but I’m poor so maybe next time.
New England-style Pacific Seafood Chowder
Based loosely off of Dairy Farmers of Canada
Time: 3 hours
- 1 whole Dungeness crab (mine was 650 g)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled & diced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3 cups simple stock (store-bought or see below)
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whipping cream
- Pacific halibut (I had 375 g of a steak cut), bones removed and flesh cut into chunks
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
- Large sourdough rolls (1 per person) – optional but awesome
To cook Crab:
- Boil/Steam crab until cooked. For a whole, live crab, see here for some straight-forward directions. For a seafood pedestrian like myself, I had my fish guy cut up and de-gill my feisty crab for me. After scrubbing the legs clean, I boiled them in plain water for 6 minutes.
- Drain legs and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
- Using whatever tools you have to crack open the legs (a chef’s knife was all I needed), separate cooked meat from shells. Save meat to add to the chowder later; save shells for simple stock as follows.
To make Simple Stock:
- Put leg shells as well as cleaned carapace in a pot. While most of the guts in the carapace are edible, I personally don’t like them (plus they are quite high in cholesterol) so I scraped them out and disposed of them.
- Add just enough water to cover–I used about 1200 ml. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 1.5 h.
- Drain the shells and reserve the liquid. If you don’t use all the liquid for the chowder, save the rest for another dish later, like takikomi gohan or paella. The shells are done at this point and you can compost them.
To make the chowder:
- In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter then saute onion, celery, and bay leaf until onion is translucent, about 3-5 min.
- Add garlic and continue to saute until garlic is fragrant, about 1 min. Then add potatoes, stirring and frying for another 2 min.
- Deglaze with wine. Continue to stir and cook for 3-5 min to let some of the alcohol boil off.
- Add stock and bring to a boil (increase heat to medium-high). Then let simmer uncovered (reduce to medium-low heat) until potatoes are almost fully cooked. Poke a piece with a fork to find out.
- Whisk flour into heavy cream in a bowl, then stir this mixture into the pot. Let the chowder come back up to a simmer (increasing heat to medium).
- Remove bay leaf and add cooked crab meat and raw fish chunks. Let simmer for 5 min or until fish is opaque i.e. it’s cooked. Then turn off the heat.
- Add lemon juice, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Add most of the chives and dill, reserving some to garnish.
To prep the bread bowls (optional):
- Set your oven/toaster oven to Broil.
- Cut each sourdough roll into… a bowl shape. Keep whatever you cut out for dipping, of course.
- Toast rolls lightly on a baking sheet in the oven for just 3-5 minutes until slightly golden.
Ladle chowder into bread bowls (or regular bowls). Garnish with additional chives and dill. Enjoy it hot, preferably on a chilly day. Here is a can of beer to show you how big it was. This was an extremely filling meal!