An Adaptable Chowder for Wahoo and Other San Diego Catches
There’s nothing quite like a hearty main course of fish chowder after a day of fishing, especially during these chilly winter nights in the backcountry.
No matter what state you’re in, New England Fish Chowder is a dish that is sure to please your palate. This is a family recipe that goes back many New England generations that will satisfy even the brawniest of fishermen thanks to its generous portions of creamy potatoes and meaty fish.
Wahoo, a white meat fish found in tropical and subtropical oceans, is surprisingly a perfect substitute for this recipe. In fact, I would dare to say that Wahoo makes a better fish chowder than Cod or other typical fishes used. This is an easy meal to prepare on busy weeknights without sacrificing quality or taste.
1/2 gallon of Half & Half
6 large russet potatoes
1 yellow onion
½ lb of bacon (or more, to taste. I opt for more!)
1-2 lbs of white fish (approximately 4 fillets)
2-4 tablespoons paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel, rinse, and cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes and set aside. Dice your onion into large pieces if you prefer a more rustic presentation, or into desired bite size pieces. Cut bacon into small pieces. Pro tip: keep the bacon refrigerated until the moment you are ready to cut it. The cold is a very helpful agent in getting a clean slice through this fatty meat.
Once your ingredients are ready, heat a large pot over a medium flame. Add your bacon and cook until browned. Remove the bacon from the pot, set aside on a paper towel or bag to remove excess fat, and drain 2/3 of the bacon fat from the pot. Add the onions to the remaining bacon fat and cook until translucent. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the potatoes and sauté for about 2 minutes, then add enough water so that the potatoes are peaking over the surface by about a quarter of an inch. The fish will steam above the potatoes, which in turn gives the potatoes a depth of flavor to compliment the chowder. Adding more water than what is called for could result in your fish becoming mushy. Place your fish fillets on top of the potatoes and generously cover with paprika. The paprika is critical! Do not skimp! Make sure each fillet has a substantial covering of paprika. Bring the pot to a boil and then return to a simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender and the fish flakes. Do not break up the fish fillets until the very last minute, and do so carefully. You want bite size pieces of fish!
I continue to simmer for an extra 10 minutes to be sure everything is thoroughly cooked and the flavors have fully married. Once the base is done, add Half & Half and the reserved bacon to the pot and heat for about 10 more minutes. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately with crusty bread or homemade cornbread!
Types of fish that you can use as substitutes in this dish include, cod, halibut, sole, wahoo, or any other white flaky fish.