Fish on the Brain: Whitefish Chowder

Living in a community surrounded by water, you know there is fishing on the brain. People are diehards, they live to fish…or is it fish to live? Depending on the winter weather the Door is dealt, we are blessed with the phenomenon of overnight pop-up shantytowns dotting the coastline, here one day and gone the next.

The diehards sit and wait patiently for the ice to be thick enough and violá! They are off and running, pole and tip-ups in hand. The true diehards are out even before shelter can be accommodated — these folks are truly of northern decent! We can plan to see them again in the spring.

So fast forward to winter — you are either an avid fisherperson or have been persuaded to spend a day out on the ice, if you are lucky, in a heated shack or shanty. The fish are biting and you are heading home with the mother lode. Now what? Waste not!

Chowder is a great way to capture the deliciousness of your catch, share it with your friends and family and fill your belly with a steaming hot meal.

Chances are you caught perch, walleye, brown trout or whitefish in Door County. The trout and whitefish will work perfectly for this chowder recipe (make sure to discard the bones when cleaning and fileting the fish). Chowder is super hearty and the perfect cold weather meal. When you filet your catch, save the backbones for making the fish stock (recipe follows) — the perfect base for chowder.

Whitefish Chowder, Recipes, Vegetables





Whitefish Chowder

3 – 4 quarts of fish stock (see recipe)

1 bay leaf

1 yellow onion, diced

2 ribs of celery, diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 carrots, diced

2 cups of frozen corn

1 lb of baby Yukon gold potatoes cut into chunks, skins on

1½ – 2 lbs of whitefish chunks, no bones (the fish can be purchased at your local fish market and grocery)

1 cube of garlic scape pesto or 2 small garlic cloves finely diced

2½ sticks of butter

1 cup flour

½ cup of fresh Italian parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

garnish with crispy bacon pieces (optional)

In a stockpot melt four tablespoons of butter (½ stick). Sauté onion, celery, carrots and garlic for 5 – 10 minutes over medium high heat, until onions are translucent. Add the fish stock, bay leaf and potatoes, bring to a boil, cook at a low boil for 20 minutes until potatoes are firm and fork tender. Add the whitefish chunks, corn and garlic scape pesto. Stir.

The Roux (thickener)

Melt two sticks of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add flour to the butter a spoonful at a time, whisking continuously. Add enough flour to form a paste.

Slowly add the roux to the soup whisking constantly. This step is key to thickening the soup — going from soup to chowder with the snap of the fingers! The more roux you add the thicker the chowder becomes (thicken to your desired consistency). Add chopped fresh parsley, stir, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with crispy bacon. Serve with your favorite oyster crackers or crusty bread. Bon appétit!

Fish Stock

This recipe makes enough so you can stock up and freeze for future use.

8 – 12 whitefish backbones, some meat attached (make sure the scales are removed). You can prep these from your ice fishing catch or procure from your local fish market — call ahead for availability.

1 celery rib with leaves, cut into large pieces

2 leeks cut length wise, dark green removed

1 large onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

1 tsp of salt

Add all ingredients to a stockpot with seven to eight quarts of water. Boil over low heat for one or two hours, strain all veggies and bones, discard. Makes 6 quarts.

If not using immediately, pour into quart jars and freeze. There must be at least one inch of room at the top of each jar for expansion.