This delicious creamy chowder is a fine food to serve to close friends and loved ones for they will be most pleased. It is similar in concept to New England Clam Chowder but it contains numerous types of shellfish as well as haddock. Note that made as shown it is rather expensive ($140 for two gallons as of 11/25/2015) so it is definitely a dish for special occasions. You can, of course, vary from this recipe to reduce the cost. For example, the lobster tails cost $43. The premium lump crab cost $22. The fresh sea scallops cost $20. Thus, $85 of the total cost of $140 was in those three ingredients, so you might use less of each while using more haddock.
As noted, the basic recipe is similar to that of New England Clam Chowder. The differences in ingredients are the generous use of fresh haddock, clam flesh and other shellfish, powdered thyme as an additional welcome herb, and a larger volume of liquid using heavy cream and milk, and finally the use of corn starch to provide some thickening beyond that provided by the flour/roux in the Food Nirvana New England Clam Chowder recipe. Oh, due to some people having lactose intolerance I used Lactaid® milk in this recipe.
Some people are squeamish about eating oysters so I did not include them in this recipe. But if your family or guests enjoy foods like oyster stew or even chilled raw oysters on the half shell, then by all means add some "small" stewing oysters to this recipe, late in the cooking process along with the scallops, but limit the amount of oysters to one pound or less.
This seafood chowder is guaranteed to be a winner, and making it for a crowd turns out to be fairly easy. My daughter-in-law, Jane (one "stellar" cook in her own right!), and I made almost two gallons of it to serve to family during the Thanksgiving holidays in 2015. Yummy! My son, Ray, Jr., described it as "Incredible!"
Ingredients: (Makes two gallons, which serves sixteen people, one pint per person)
2 lbs. of fresh haddock filets cut into 1" cubes
51 oz. can of chopped sea clams in clam broth (I buy it at Sam's Club®)
Note: You can powder dried thyme and many other types of herbs using a small high speed blender like a Magic Bullet®. Also, this type of chowder, with high content of cream and milk, is not a suitable candidate for freezing of leftovers, as freezing will ruin the creamy composition of the chowder, which will become sadly evident when it is reheated.
If you use whole live lobsters then flash boil each lobster for one minute and then cut or saw off the claws and tails for processing. Regardless of lobster type used, then use shears to cut through shell and membrane to help manual separation of the flesh from the shell. Then chop/cut the lobster flesh into pieces roughly 3/4" inch long and wide and whatever thickness is present for the part you are processing. If you used whole live lobsters and you want to process the shells for stock then clean the entire lobster bodies and put all the shell pieces into the clam broth from the can of chopped clams, and use a small amount of water, and simmer for 30 minutes to create a fine stock, after which you discard the shells and strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer, then use the stock as inferred below to cook the diced potatoes.
Wash the fresh haddock and then cut it into approximately 1" cubes and whatever thinner cuts result where the filets are less than one inch thick.
Now let's discuss bacon for a minute. Bacon brands sold in supermarkets are almost always water cured and the water content is now so high that the bacon shrinks to almost nothing when fried. That is a disgrace! Frying six slices of that bacon yields too little bacon and too little bacon grease to be adequate in this recipe. I buy dry cured hickory smoked bacon online from Burgers Smokehouse® in Missouri. You can buy it presliced or in slab form. If you can't find or use dry cured bacon then increase the amount of supermarket bacon you fry to twelve slices. Let's continue.
Fry the bacon on low to medium heat until there is no uncooked fat, but do not make the bacon overly crisp and do not burn it or overheat the bacon fat. Turn off the heat. Remove the bacon to a paper towel. Crumble/break it into small pieces when it has cooled. Set the bacon aside.
Pour the hot bacon grease into a cup, avoiding the transfer of any solid particles, and then clean the skillet to remove any solid particles. Pour the hot bacon grease back into the skillet and put it on the stove burner with no heat.
Dice the onions into ½" or smaller pieces. Put them into the skillet with the hot bacon grease. Add the butter and white pepper. Sauté the onion on medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until it is translucent. I like to use a glass lid on the skillet initially to get the contents heated faster. Then I remove the lid and sauté normally with stirring. Turn off the heat and add the flour to the skillet and mix well.
Peel and dice the potatoes into cubes 3/8" on a side. Put the chopped sea clams and clam broth and the diced potatoes into a 2 to 3 gallon soup pot and heat on medium high heat until just boiling. Reduce the heat to medium or medium low and allow the potatoes to simmer for 8 minutes, adding a small amount of water if necessary to barely cover the potato pieces.
Add the skillet contents to the soup pot while stirring, and increase the heat to medium high and stir to mix well. Add a quart of the milk while stirring and also all of the heavy cream, the salt and the thyme. Add the crumbled bacon pieces. Mix the cornstarch well with a pint of the second quart of the milk and add it to the pot while stirring.
At this point add the haddock pieces and bring the chowder to a simmer and hold it at that temperature, stirring every few minutes for 15 minutes. Adjust the heat level as necessary. Do not boil the chowder, but the occasional bubble coming to the surface is perfectly okay. Then add the shrimp and the crabmeat and simmer for five more minutes. Then add the lobster pieces and the scallop pieces and simmer for five more minutes.
The chowder is now done except for two possible actions items, adjusting the total volume of chowder and the thickness of the chowder.
If necessary, bring the total volume up to two gallons by adding the other pint of milk. Then simmer the chowder just long enough to adjust the temperature for the added milk.
If the chowder is thick enough to suit you then cover the soup pot with a lid and turn off the heat. The chowder is done. If instead you want thicker chowder then mix another tablespoon or two of cornstarch with a cup of cream or milk and slowly add it to the chowder while stirring and continuing to heat the chowder to thicken it. Then turn off the heat and cover the chowder with a lid to keep it warm.
Sample the chowder and adjust the seasoning by adding white pepper or sea salt or powdered thyme as needed. Alternatively, you can let each person season their portion as desired.
Serve the chowder in pre-warmed crocks along with oyster crackers. Fresh parsley sprigs make a nice garnish.
Adding a small tossed salad with a non-creamy dressing makes this a complete meal, and it is a nice accompaniment with appearance, texture and flavor contrasts. Yes, a light fresh tasting French white burgundy wine, like Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuisse, or a Pinot Grigio, chilled, is a fine beverage to serve with this meal. You might also want to have some warm French bread, sliced thick, and served with butter.