RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Terry's Famous Maine Fish Chowder

On the coast of Maine, in a large Victorian house, 91-year-old Vivian Daly lives alone.  Her housekeeper, Terry, is justly famous for her soups and chowders (though she has little interest in cleaning out the attic, which is how a moody teenage girl comes into their lives, and how Orphan Train begins).

Terry’s fish chowder recipe has been a closely guarded secret, but I convinced her to share it here. All it took was the promise of a few bottles of Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc.


1/2 to 1 lb. bacon (optional)
2 c. minced onion
2 stalks minced celery
4 c. liquid – any combination of chicken stock and clam juice (or one or the other)
4 c. diced potatoes (peeled or unpeeled, depending on preference)
2 lb. fish: any combination of cod or other white fish (cubed), scallops or shrimp
1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning, or to taste
1/2 c. flour
1 c. liquid – chicken stock or clam juice
2 c. half and half (or if you prefer 2% milk, increase flour by a few tablespoons)
ground black pepper


Cook bacon in a large skillet until crispy; drain, set aside, and crumble when cool.

Saute onions and celery in 1 tbsp. bacon drippings and 1 tbsp. butter until soft.*  Add chicken or clam stock and potatoes; simmer for 10 minutes.  Add fish (except scallops or shrimp), simmer another 10 minutes.  Season to taste with Old Bay, salt and pepper.

Mix 1 c. liquid and flour until smooth; stir into soup.  (Add scallops/shrimp now, if using.)  Cook until slightly thickened; add half-and-half.  Stir in crumbled bacon or sprinkle on top with a pat of butter and a dusting of pepper.  

Optional add-ins or substitutions: 8 oz. sliced mushrooms or finely diced scallions (sautéed with the onions and celery), a can of corn or creamed corn (or fresh/roasted), evaporated milk instead of half and half.

*If you aren’t cooking bacon, use 2 tbsp. butter.