This post is part of the Canadian Food Experience Project, a project begun June 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories through our regional food experiences and food memories, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity. This month’s topic is “A Canadian Love Affair”, which can apply to absolutely anything we love relating to Canadian food, from a certain chef to a beautiful ingredient to an inspiring cookbook to a memorable meal. What first comes to mind for you?
When I mentioned the topic to my Mom, she had an immediate response: Seafood Chowder. After a visit to the East Coast of Canada several years ago, she has been altering, tweaking, and perfecting a seafood chowder recipe worthy of any 5-star seaside restaurant. Knowing I could never top that Canadian love affair, I asked her to guest post and she was kind enough to agree! Thanks, Mom, for writing about your love affair for my blog :)
Back in 1983, when our oldest daughter was only 3 months old, my husband and I drove, with our baby, across the country, from Burlington, Ontario, all the way to Houston, British Columbia. My husband was going to be ordained as a minister in his first congregation. There was some sadness with parting from family in Ontario, but also excitement at moving to beautiful British Columbia.
Over the years my husband changed congregations a few times, but we stayed on the westward side, with our longest time in one place, 14 years, in the Fraser Valley. We had always said we would like to see other parts of Canada, including the Maritime provinces. We loved the West Coast with its mountains and the Pacific Ocean, but we had heard that the East Coast was also very beautiful. We thought, someday, when we are back in Ontario, or living somewhere closer to the East, we will go there for holidays. But the years passed and it seemed we had become, quite happily and permanently, westerners. So, in 2005, we decided to make a trip with our 2 youngest daughters. We would fly to Halifax, tour the Maritimes, then stop in Ontario on the way back home to visit family. After all, it didn’t seem like we would be living anywhere in the East anytime soon, if ever.
It was this trip that inspired my search for a recipe for perfect seafood chowder.
I always knew I liked chowder, but until I travelled the East Coast, I didn’t realize how much. My husband and daughters thought I was a little obsessed and maybe even a tad odd when I would order seafood chowder for every lunch and supper. It was a bit different but so delicious everywhere I had it, and I just couldn’t get enough of it. So while I wouldn’t claim to have found a recipe that matches all the scrumptious bowls of chowder I had in the Maritimes, this recipe comes mighty close and does the job of satisfying my chowder cravings until I can get back to Peggy’s Cove, Cape Breton Island, P.E.I and all those other beautiful places we visited in 2005.
By the way, as for being permanent westerners, the very next year, 2006, my husband, two youngest daughters and I moved back to Ontario, leaving behind beautiful British Columbia. Are we permanent Ontario dwellers now? Who knows? But we have never been back to the East Coast, so it is a good thing we went when we did or you might never have gotten this recipe.
Every time I make this soup it is a little bit different because I tend to add what seafood I have on hand or is on sale that week. If you live somewhere where fresh fish is readily available, that will give the best flavour. Otherwise, frozen and thawed seafood still make a delicious soup. I always put in whitefish of some kind, then add what else I can find and can afford. Scallops are my favourite, crab is good, and even salmon adds a nice flavour. You might just want this for every lunch and dinner too.
- 6 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 small onion, cut in ½” dice
- 1 leek, white part only, cut in ½” dice
- 1 large carrot, cut in ½” dice
- 2 stalks celery, cut in ½” dice
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 large potato, peeled and cut in ½” dice
- 4 cups fish stock (or chicken stock if necessary)
- 1 lb (500g) boneless, skinless whitefish (haddock, cod,etc), thawed if frozen, and cut into 2” pieces
- 1 lb (500g) scallops, crab, shrimp, cooked lobster or any combination of your favourite seafood
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ cup (125ml) whipping cream
- Cook bacon in large saucepan or Dutch oven until crisp. Use slotted spoon to remove bacon from pan and drain cooked bacon pieces on paper towel. Discard all but 1 tbsp of bacon fat.
- Add onion, leek, carrot, celery and thyme to bacon fat in pan. Cook, stirring, on medium heat, for 3-5 minutes, until slightly softened but not browned. Sprinkle with flour and cook gently 3-4 minutes longer. Whisk in stock. Bring to a boil.
- Add potatoes. Cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add whitefish and cook 5 minutes. Add remaining seafood and continue cooking 3 more minutes, or until all seafood is tender and cooked. Stir in whipping cream and cooked bacon. Check seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve hot.
Other posts contributed to the Canadian Food Experience Project:
My Most Cherished Canadian Food Recipe: Best Ever Nanaimo Bars
A Regional Canadian Food: Five Minute Homemade Raspberry Jam
A Canadian Christmas Tradition: Tourtiere
A Canadian Resolution: Homemade Bread
Canadian Preserving Traditions: Red Pepper Jelly
Bonjour from France and thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Anna. I was craving for a chowder like the ones we had in British Columbia last year so I googled Canadian creamy seafood chowder and found you. We just had it for dinner and I must say it was a huge success. I followed the exact recipe and it was just perfect. I’ll definitely make it again. Thank you and best wishes. Chantal
So glad you enjoyed it, it really is perfect comfort food!
Robert Kirby says
Born and raised in Newfoundland and have travelled all over the world as well I have come to accept the secret to anything seafood it has to be as fresh as possible! Right out of the water is totally the best!!!
Corinne Hartley-Robinson says
I live a short distance from Peggy’s Cove, N.S., and have been making chowder for much of my life. Most authentic Nova Scotia recipes use small cubes of salt pork (browned until crispy) instead of bacon. You cook your onions and diced celery in that rendered fat. Then you add that mixture to the stock that you’ve cooked your cubed potatoes in., and gently poach your white fish, shucked clams, and scallops/lobster. Finally, add the cream and heat through (don’t boil). No thyme. But before serving, add back the crunchy bits of salt pork, and a little bit of chopped parsley. It’s certainly not health food, but it’s SO delicious!
This has my mouth watering! Sounds amazing!
Thank you for this recipe. I am from Nova Scotia myself so decided to try it yesterday to use up some frozen lobster and haddock. I enjoyed the chowder although I personally would eliminate the thyme as I found it to be overpowering.
Marguerite dunlop says
Hi Anna ,your recipes look delicious ,and very simple.i am dying to try fish chowder,since I am from the east coast.have not come across a good recipe,till I read yours,going to try it for Xmas. Wish me luck, marg
Hope you love it as much as we do!! Let me know how it goes. Merry Christmas :)
i’m not crazy about the seafood but, the way this recipe look’s like i’m gonna dip in fast and taste all :D
Mmmm. I might have to make this for a date night in, since I’m pretty sure my children wouldn’t like it, but I know Alex and I would!
Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. says
I love a good chowder! This looks fantastic!
I grew up 20 minutes from Peggy’s Cove, so I’ve eaten my share of seafood chowder! I’ve never made it though because my husband hates seafood. I cook myself salmon now and then, and friends take pity on me when they cook lobster and save one for me, so at least I get seafood sometimes. I’ve only been as far west as Alberta (Banff), but I’d love to see BC sometime.