Brazilian Fish Chowder

Growing up Catholic, we ate the craziest things for dinner on no-meat Fridays. Campbell’s Tomato Soup and either grilled cheese or scrambled eggs (my Dad used to put the eggs INTO his soup), Pancakes (mmm…. Breakfast for dinner!), Potato Pancakes (my Mom’s favorite: she’d smother them with butter and sour cream ~ so healthy!), Mrs. Paul’s Codfish cakes, topped with non-diluted tomato soup (Campbell’s), Tuna Casserole, Mac & Cheese. And my number 1 favorite: pizza.

Now that I’m all grown up and my palate has changed, the fish is spice-rubbed, plank-grilled salmon, the pasta is Puttanesca or Angel hair with shrimp, scallops, sundried tomatoes and snow peas, the eggs are crab and mushroom frittata or strata, and the tomato soup alternative is a tomato-based chowder. Pizza as always is still my number 1 favorite!

This Fish Chowder is a delicious option for a fish-based meal. I made it for my friends in NJ who kept Kosher, and it quickly became a huge Soup Party hit with all of my guests regardless of religious restrictions. It’s equally good reheated, but the fish falls apart. Tastes great but not quite as attractive the next day.

Brazilian Fish Chowder
from “Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook” (1961)
6 or more servings

¼ cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
2 Tbls. finely chopped green pepper
¼ cup flour
2 cups water
4 cups canned tomatoes, puréed
1 Tbls. tomato paste
2-3 tsp. salt, or to taste
¼ tsp. cayenne or chili powder
½ tsp. Beau Monde seasoning (or Old Bay Seasoning)
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 cup white wine
2 lbs. fillets whitefish, cleaned & cubed
1 lb. cod or haddock, cleaned & cubed
3 Tbls. finely cut parsley

Cook onion, garlic and green pepper in oil in heavy 3-quart pot or Dutch oven until onions are golden. Sprinkle with flour. Stir and cook 2-3 minutes. Whisk in water, tomatoes and paste, seasonings and wine. Whisk and bring to boiling point. Add fish. Lower heat and let simmer 1 hour until fish is done but still firm. Adjust seasonings. Serve in warmed chowder bowls, topped with parsley.

Garlic French bread goes well with this chowder.

Cook’s Notes: If you multiply the recipe, be careful of the salt and spices. Add a little at a time to ensure that the soup doesn’t get over-seasoned. I typically use sea bass and black cod, but you can ask for suggestions at the fish market or seafood counter at the supermarket. Also ask them to skin the fish for you – you’ll be happy that they did! They may also be willing to cube the fish for you: SO WORTH IT! And be sure to remove all of the bones; cut around them if needed.

You can find Old Bay Seasoning in any grocery store on the east coast; not quite as easy here in CA, but I did see it in Bristol Farms.

I don’t have any pictures of this chowder, but when I make it the next time I’ll be sure to take some and add them to this post!



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