Carolina Fish Chowder


Photograph by Andrews McMeel

On a recent trip to Asheville, N.C.,  I finally beat the typical two-hour wait to get into Tupelo Honey Café for brunch, and left with their beautiful cookbook: Tupelo Honey Café: Spirited Recipes From Asheville’s New South Kitchen. Written by Elizabeth Sims, with chef Brian Sonoskus (Andrews McMeel Publishing), it’s a delectable homage to the farm-to-fork flavors for which this lively little mountain city is known. One day I may try to duplicate the famed Ginormous Biscuits and outrageously decadent Sweet Potato Pancakes With Peach Butter and Spiced Pecans I tried on my visit. Right away, though, I made this hearty yet healthful fish chowder. It was so flavorful and quick to assemble it is likely to become a staple. A pan-full of cornbread is all you need to complete the meal. – Susan Puckett

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 (I used catfish; grouper or mahi mahi would also be good)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

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.

2. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, water, Old Bay Seasoning, thyme, oregano, and salt. 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.