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Carolina Fish Chowder

From Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen.

At Tupelo Honey, we are fortunate to receive frequent ocean bounty from our Carolina coastal fishermen. This hearty chowder can be made with almost any firm white fish, but our favorites are grouper, red snapper, and mahimahi. Make a skillet of cornbread when you're done.

Ingredients
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup diced Vidalia onion (about 1 large onion)
1 cup diced celery (about 4 ribs)
1 cup peeled, diced carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
2 cups diced red potatoes (about 3 large potatoes)
1 bay leaf
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, including juice
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 pound firm white fish, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
1. Melt the butter in the vegetable oil in a 4-quart saucepan over high heat and sauté the onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes for about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to be tender. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, water, Old Bay Seasoning, thyme, oregano, and salt.

2. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture is heated through and the potatoes are fork tender.

3. Add the fish and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes longer, or until the fish is cooked through and firm, being careful not to overcook so the fish retains its firmness. Add the pepper and serve immediately. This soup is delicious reheated the next day when all the flavors have melded.

Makes 8 servings.