My mother-in-law Rita took great pride in her home, and she was an intimidating housekeeper despite working into her mid-seventies as a school nurse to 700 elementary school children. Her house, an expanded salt box in the traditional style of New England, was not very big. I was always amazed that she had brought up four tall children in that space. She made it work, though, and made her guests welcome. As the girlfriend and then bride of her eldest son, there was some negotiating between us at first, but after the birth of our son, I became a bona fide member of the family. Though we lived in Virginia, and my in-laws lived north of Boston, we got together several times a year. Rita was always nervous on our travel days, as work or school meant we couldn't get going as early as she would have liked. But no matter what time we got in, exhausted from the long, stressful drive, she would always have the table set for us, and a big pot of her special fish chowder warming gently on the stove. I can smell it in my memory and feel the relief that always came as I walked in the back door—home!
So in memory of Rita/Mom/Mémé , who died last week at age 88, I offer her fish chowder recipe. May it provide comfort and a sense of homecoming.
2 lbs. haddock or any firm white fish (she always got the freshest, just down the street)
8 medium potatoes peeled and cubed
2 medium onions chopped
1 cup evaporated milk or half & half (plus regular milk if desired)
1) Simmer potatoes and onions with water to cover until not quite cooked (10 minutes)
2) Lay fish on top of potatoes and simmer on low heat until it flakes.
3) Add evaporated milk or cream (and as much regular milk as desired).
4) Add salt and pepper. Some of the potatoes and liquid can be removed and blended to give a thicker broth.
It always tastes better when made the day before (especially after a long car trip!)