New England Soups from the Sea
By Craig Fear
The Countryman Press
The subtitle of this delightful, beautifully illustrated cookbook is “Recipes for chowders, bisques, boils, stews, and classic seafood medleys,” but author, Craig Fear, starts in the right place: with stocks and broths.
To make seafood soups right, you need real dinkum broth, and his foundational chapter on stocks and broths is an inspiration. The author provides detailed instructions for two versions of fish stock as well as lobster and crab stock, mussel broth and not just one but two types of clam broth—one for hard-shell clams and one for soft-shell clams!
The chowder chapter provides a fascinating history of this iconic dish. Fear notes that pre-1800 chowders little resembled the chowder soups of today. They were made by layering salt pork, onions, fish and crackers in cauldrons, often with the addition of herbs and spices, and cooking the mixture over an open flame. Added water or wine helped distribute the heat, but the final dish was more like a stew than a soup.
Today’s chowder requires no more than six ingredients: bacon or salt pork, onions, potatoes, stock or broth, fish or shellfish and milk or cream—and Fear makes it clear that he prefers cream. There’s no canned cream of mushroom soup in any of his recipes, but only real, nutrient-dense ingredients. The great debate is whether to add tomatoes rather than cream—Fear provides recipes for both versions, with recipes for clam chowder from New England, Rhode Island, Maine, Manhattan and Connecticut, along with a Portuguese version in tribute to the strong Portuguese influence along the New England coast.
Don’t like clams? Then you can choose from chowders made from fish, including salmon, oysters, crab, scallops, squid and lobster. The lobster corn chowder, made with genuine lobster stock, is worth the price of the book.
Other chapters cover brothy soups, bisques, stews and boils. The bisque recipes look amazing. The word bisque may come from the French term bis cuites, meaning “twice cooked,” because you cook the shells twice, first by sauteing or roasting them and then by simmering in water with wine and herbs. The final soups are blended and creamy, often with added sherry for a real kick.
This book belongs in the collection of every serious cook. For more recipes from Craig Fear, visit his website at fearlesseating.net.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2022🖨️ Print post