If you buy a few key Indian spices, they’ll go a long way. Totally worth the investment if you ask me, because you can use Indian spices in many recipes that are not Indian at all. Ground cumin powder for instance, is routinely used in everything from spice rubs to salads in Tex-Mex, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and African cooking, to name but a few cuisines. Ground spices will keep in your pantry for a couple of years, and whole spices like cinnamon stick have a shelf-life of 3-4 years. If you follow my 5-10-5 Rule, which is a cheat sheet I created for my husband Sean so he could make a few basic Indian dishes, you will spend at most $30-50 on good quality spices that will last you a long time. This East Mountain Fish Chowder calls for traditional Indian spices like coriander and paprika. But it doesn’t taste like an Indian dish at all. The reason? The combination and ratio of spices is key in different cuisines. For more on this, see the Art of Indian Cooking. Starting with warm, earthy ground coriander that is sautéed with onion, garlic, and parsnip, and finished at the end with a bit of cream and generous amount of paprika to round everything out, this is the best fish chowder that Sean and I have ever had. Even our 3 year old Liam loves it.
So, why is it called “East Mountain” fish chowder? When we lived in Boston back in 2009, I drove up to the Berkshire mountains and attended a silent retreat for 4 days. The location was the East Mountain Interfaith Retreat Center which was like a deep woods convent. It’s for those who wish a quiet place for reflection and meditation. Run by a nun on the side of a mountain, with a twinkle in her eye, Reverend Lois Rose told me that the retreat center often attracted stressed out working moms, artists and writers 🙂 I found it to be thoroughly rejuvenating and more restful than any vacation I’ve ever been on.
Every evening, Reverend Rose would prepare a one-pot dinner that would suddenly appear in the common kitchen at 6pm on the dot. My absolute favorite was her homemade fish chowder with ground coriander, potatoes, parsnip, cream, and paprika. I’ve since called it East Mountain Fish Chowder and made it many, many times.
With a base of onions, garlic, and parsnip sautéed gently in olive oil and butter with tender thyme leaves, the chowder has a light broth, thickened with potatoes and a splash of cream. A lovely depth of flavor comes from ground coriander powder and a generous dash of paprika to finish.
You can use cod or haddock, and I recommend an extra large parsnip, and tiny Yukon gold potatoes. Get some good quality chicken broth and half-and-half cream, and you won’t be disappointed. The hearty potatoes are offset perfectly by the lush cod and sweet parsnip and cream. The ground coriander gives it just the right depth, and the paprika brings up the end with just the right amount of something. I can’t even describe it. It’s so good. Especially on a cold December evening. Just make it.
East Mountain Fish Chowder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 to 8 springs fresh thyme, leaves removed
- 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander powder
- 8 small red potatoes, sliced into rounds
- 1 to 2 cups of chicken stock, just enough to cover potatoes
- 1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 pound skinless wild-caught cod (or haddock), cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup half-and-half or table cream
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Heat oil and butter in a medium saucepan on a medium flame. Add onions, garlic, and fresh thyme, sautéing until golden
- Once the onions are soft, add parsnip and combine well.
- Add salt, pepper, and coriander and sauté until parsnip is lightly browned.
- Add sliced potatoes and chicken broth and combine well. Increase heat and bring to a boil and simmer gently on low for 10 minutes.
- Once potatoes are fork tender, stir in parsley and continue simmering gently on low.
- Gently fold in cod and cook on low heat for 5 minutes — don’t stir vigorously, as the fish will break.
- Remove immediately from heat and keep covered for 10 min — the haddock will continue cooking on its own.
- Let it sit until you’re ready to serve; the longer it sits, the better the flavor!
- Before serving, stir in cream, then paprika, combining gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- If needed, slowly reheat on a low flame right before serving, but don’t let it boil.