Fish and Seafood, Soups

30 minute meals: mom’s lite fish chowder


This chunky, wholesome fish chowder is ready in 30 minutes.
When I was growing up mom and dad often had neighbourhood parties and as kids we’d all help out, taking coats at the door and serving food. I remember when I was really little getting to fill the silver cigarette boxes before a party (hard to imagine!) and sometimes I’d keep count of which guests ate the most meatballs. When I was finished university I remember one party where I tended bar and served nearly an entire bottle of Glenfiddich to two elderly neighbours. Through the course of the evening I was schooled in the merits of single malt Scotch and told I poured “like a girl” (i.e. wasn’t generous enough).  

Sometimes the parties would be sing-alongs with my dad at the piano. There was a memorable Sunday afternoon chowder and carols party that turned into a tomato soup sing-along because the chowder somehow went bad overnight and had to be thrown out. There were guests to be fed so dad raced to the grocery store for canned tomato soup. Mom doctored it up with some extra ingredients and we all ate and sang the afternoon away.  
It’s a shame the guests didn’t get to taste mom’s chowder because it’s delicious. It isn’t too rich nor is it too thick so the flavour and texture of the fish and potatoes shines through. (I’m not a fan of chowder thickened with flour and I find chowder made with cream too rich.)
The recipe lends itself to endless adaptations.
For clam chowder just substitute two cans of clams and their juices for the haddock. Or add a can of clams to the haddock recipe. Or add some cooked shrimp, a bit of cooked lobster, whatever your preference.

Mom’s fish chowder

Serves 4-6
  • 1 slice bacon, cut into pieces (or 1 Tbsp. olive oil)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups potato in 1” chunks
  • 1 lb. haddock, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 can Carnation evaporated milk (or 2 cups 2% milk)**
  • About 1 cup homogenized milk (or more, depending on preferred thickness)
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • A sprinkling of celery salt
  • ½ to 1 tsp. good quality curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • Several grinds of black pepper
**Carnation milk is optional (can replace with regular milk)


    1. In a large pot sauté the bacon until crispy.
    2. Add onion, celery, carrot, potato and enough water to barely cover the vegetables.
    3. Simmer until vegetables are tender.
    4. Add fish and continue to simmer until fish is cooked through.
    5. Add Carnation milk and enough homogenized milk to suit your taste and preferred consistency.
    6. Warm gently (don’t boil) and season with final five ingredients.

    Green tips:

    • Choose Marine Stewardship Council certified fish (recognizes sustainably managed fisheries)
    • Look for organic potatoes since conventionally grown potatoes carry a high pesticide load.

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