If you’ve had clam chowder or fish chowder, you know that the seafood is mixed into the soup with the other ingredients.
As you can see in the photos, the chowder here is more dense than soupy. It’s like having potatoes and vegetables with your fish, scallops or shrimp, rather than a bowl of soup.
Chowder was brought to New England in the 17th century by Breton* fishermen, fishing the waters of Newfoundland, a large island off the east coast of what is now Canada.
They tossed some of the day’s catch into a large pot or cauldron, called a chaudière, from the Latin caldaria. The word is pronounced show-D’YAIR, which became chowder in English.
Chowders were a staple in fishing villages along the coast of France and in the Cornwall region of southwestern England.
On the ships that came to the New World, that soup was originally thickened with crushed ship’s biscuits. Now flour is used, but there’s a tradition of serving oyster crackers or saltines on the side.
While we now make corn chowder, chicken-corn chowder and variations, the first chowders in New England were the Breton fish chowders.
In addition to fish, there was a large supply of clams along the northern Atlantic coast. Thus, the now-iconic New England clam chowder was born (or merely clam chowder, as the residents then called it—here’s a recipe).
This recipe was created for with whitefish (cod, haddock, halibut, sea bass), which is used in a traditional New England fish chowder.
But you can go upscale and substitute salmon, scallops, shrimp, even lobster. You can also top the chowder with an assortment.
Ingredients For 2 Servings
 Topping this chowder with fish turns it into a hearty meal (both photos © Idaho Potato Commission).
1. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
2. ADD the potatoes and corn. Sauté 2-3 minutes, then add the water or stock, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. While the potatoes are simmering…
3. HEAT the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in another skillet. Season the fish with salt and pepper and sear each side over medium high heat. Lower the heat and cook to your desired doneness. Set aside. When the potatoes are fork tender…
4. UNCOVER and cook off a little of the liquid. If desired, add a few tablespoons half and half or soy milk for a bit of extra creaminess; cook for a minute or two to thicken.
5. STIR in half of the basil. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Right before serving…
6. STIR in the remaining basil, saving a bit for garnish (editor’s note: julienne it for the garnish). Dish up the sweet corn chowder and top with the seared fish and basil.
*The smaller the dice, the faster the potatoes will cook.
†Breton refers to residents of Brittany, a region in northwest France.