This is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe from the River Cottage Fish Book. The book is 600 pages long that reads like an encyclopedia on the sourcing and cooking of all things seafood. Among the IHCC’s featured chefs, Hugh stands out for his fishy knowledge and extensive seafood recipes. We happen to be big seafood lovers, particularly, a good chowder. This smoked fish chowder has been on my to-do list for a long time. Finally, I made it.
Chowder’s roots are in the Northeast, with the most popular being the New England clam chowder, my favorite. Customarily, chowder includes onion, potatoes, and cream. Since we prefer a lighter rather than a chunky and creamy version, adding corn in the chowder is most fitting, especially when it’s high season for corn. Furthermore, the quality and the price of local corn are unbeatable. So far so good: I only need to source the smoked fish.
Well, this is where the story begins. I’ve discovered Acme Smoked Fish in Brooklyn, a family owned business dating back to early 1900s. It is the best kept secret for smoked fish and artisanal fish produce. You may be able to find the company’s smoked salmon at Costco. Best of all, Acme opens its retail operation every Friday for a few hours. The sale price direct to the public is unbelievable, even lower than that at Costco. However, what I didn’t know is its all-cash policy and made the mistake of not bringing enough cash.
A few days ago, I went to Acme for the first time. Didn’t know what to expect other than the plan to get some smoked fish for the chowder. Acme is located in the transitional neighborhood and warehouse section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. On my way, I can’t help but stop at every interesting building to marvel at the urban art scene on the wall.
A makeshift sign and a van with the company name was parked outside. I walked into an entrance that looked like a garage or a loading dock. There were at least 30 to 40 people waiting in line. When I left, the line was out the door and the main door was closed, even though there was an hour to go until the closing time. It was a mixed crowd of mostly locals, a cross-section in terms of age, gender, language and ethnicity. I felt oddly out of place since it was my first visit. I was not aware it’s cash and carry. No worry, the staff was super friendly, efficient and accommodating.
I’d go back to Acme again to get some of their smoked salmon, the most popular item on the menu. Their vacuum-packed smoked salmon would make great gifts. If you happen to be in New York City and you’re food obsessed like I am, you’d appreciate this local food establishment. Notably, there are dairy-free ice cream and craft beer start-ups within a few blocks away from Acme. These places are off the beaten path, but way cooler than Chelsea market which is swarmed with tourists and getting very overcrowded.
Make the chowder by sweating the onion and leek. Then add the fish stock and milk in equal proportions. Since the smoked fish is already cooked, it is just a matter of poaching it lightly and imparting the smoky flavor of the sea. Next, cook the potatoes in the liquid. Add the corn when the chowder is almost ready. I put the flaked fish fillet on the side instead of returning it to the hot chowder. To serve, sprinkle some scallions on top. Finally, it’s time to enjoy the smoked fish and corn chowder.
Smoked Fish ChowderPrint Recipe
- 25g unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
- 1 large leek, trimmed and finely sliced
- 400ml fish stock
- 400ml milk
- 300g smoked pollack fillet (I used trout)
- 250g potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
- 2 sweetcorn cobs
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Parsley, to garnish
Sweat the onions and leeks in butter for a few minutes. Add the stock and milk in equal proportions. Add the fish, and lightly poach it in the broth. Strip the corn cobs and pare off the niblets with a sharp knife.
When the fish is done, lift the fillets from the pan and set aside in a colander to cool. Add the potatoes to the liquor. While they are simmering, flake the fish into a bowl and discard the skin along with any stray bones. When the potatoes are almost done, add the sweetcorn to cook for the last couple of minutes. Return the flaked fish to the pot and stir. Serve in small bowls with a garnish of parsley.
Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Fish Book