Fish Chowder Is Like Getting Something For Nothing

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.47.10 AMFish chowder is one of my favorite soups.  It always appeals to my frugal side because I make it out of parts of the fish that most people throw away.  I like to use halibut or white sea bass for my chowder.  You can use other fish, but halibut and white sea bass are nice firm fish and because they’re larger the bones tend to be easier to find.  Also they have large sections that typically get scrapped.  For halibut I save the bones from the head to the tail of the fish.  There can be several pounds of good quality fish left between the bones on a halibut. When I use white sea bass, I like to use the rib meat near the stomach.

I start with a big pan (6 quart) and add enough water to boil the fish and 4 – 5 bay leaves.  Boil until the meat turns white.  Then let it cool enough to handle and pull the meat off of the bones.  Put the fish aside in a bowl.  Check it well for bones at this time.  I only want about a pound to a pound and a half of fish, so if it’s a really big halibut I’ll put some of the meat into zip lock bags with some of the water I boiled it in and freeze it for another time.

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I’m a taste and adjust cook, so this is mostly an approximation of what I do.  If you’re a cook by the recipe person, or If you have a favorite clam chowder recipe use it and just substitute the clams with the fish.

Cross cut the bacon into 1/4” strips using scissors.  Cook in a fry pan until crispy then spoon the bacon onto some paper towels to drain.  Use the bacon grease to sauté the carrots,  celery, onions and garlic.

I like to save about 2 cups of the fish broth to precook the carrots and the diced potatoes until they’re almost cooked through (in the 6 quart sauce pan).  Carrots take a longer amount of time to cook so start them first, adding the potatoes when the carrots are 1/2 done.  Add the chicken broth cubes to the fish broth when you start the carrots.  When the potatoes are almost done add the fish and sautéd onions and garlic back into the pot.  Add the milk products at this time.  If you cook low fat, use evaporated milk and powdered milk, if you like cream, use it.

I’ll used a few can of evaporated milk.  I also like to use powdered milk because it thickens the water up.  I try to stay away from a lot of fat in my cooking but you have to have some to make it taste good.  I always have butter on hand, but you can use butter, half and half, or cream.  The bacon drippings can also be added in for more flavor.

To thicken any gravy or soup you add the flour to a small amount of cold water first and mix all the lumps out of it and then stir it into your soup or gravy.  The flour and water should have about the same consistency as pancake batter.  The chowder has to get almost up to boiling for the flour to thicken so don’t add too much too fast.  Keep stirring until it does thicken so it doesn’t burn.  I usually add in about 1/4 cup of flour at a time until the thickness is right.   If I find I need more liquid I’ll add a little more milk, cream or water.

Add in the seasonings and then taste test to adjust.   Season with salt, pepper, dried parsley, garlic powder and onion powder.  Always put in a little tabasco (a couple of teaspoons) or some other hot sauce.  You shouldn’t have a real burn from it, but it kicks up flavor.

When you have everything in there you want to let it sit on low heat for 30 minutes or so to let the flavors develop.  Be careful not to let it boil because the bottom will scorch.  Be sure not to serve the bay leaves, but leave them in the leftovers because the flavor will continue to develop.

Garnish with fresh parsley and bacon pieces.

Serve it with a loaf of french bread our sour dough bread.

If you have some friends that are hitting the white sea bass or the halibut, hit them up for the bones or the rib meat, you’ll be glad you did.


  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs halibut or white sea bass
  • 2 cans evaporated milk, 1/2 cup to 1 cup powdered milk or if you like it creamy use a pint half and half or a pint of cream
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley / fresh is best if you have it.
  • 2 teaspoons Montreal chicken seasoning
  • bacon 4 – 5 slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon tabasco
  • fresh parsley
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 celery stalks sliced small
  • 3 cups of diced potatoes
  • flour to thicken
  • 3 chicken bullion cubes
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic chopped