Whether they feature shellfish, smoked fish or fresh fish, chowders are an essential part of New England cooking. Ours is prepared with a mixture of fresh cod, haddock and halibut, three important North Atlantic ocean varieties. We've made the surprising addition of butternut squash and kale--both popular regional vegetables--to this hearty soup for extra color and texture. Curry powder lends an unexpected bit of spice.
8 bacon slices, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 8-ounce bottles clam juice
4 cups 1/2-inch dice peeled white potatoes (about 3 pounds)
4 cups 1/2-inch dice peeled butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2 bay leaves
4 cups chopped kale leaves
5 cups milk
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried, crumbled
3 pounds mixed fresh fish (a choice of cod, halibut, haddock and/or scrod), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
To render fat, cook chopped bacon in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Add chopped onions and sauté until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add curry powder and stir 30 seconds. Mix in bottled clam juice, diced potatoes, diced butternut squash and bay leaves. Simmer 5 minutes. Add chopped kale leaves and simmer until vegetables are almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add 5 cups milk, 1 cup half and half and minced thyme. (Chowder can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate.)
Bring chowder to simmer. Add fish and simmer until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaves. Ladle chowder into bowls and serve.