In partnership with Sitka Salmon Shares.
Tucked between historic textile buildings along the fishing wharf in Downtown New Bedford, MA., was a tiny fish shack. I’m not sure if it had a name, or how we even found it. I guess when you’re a “starving” art school student, away from home for the first time, you have a tendency to gravitate toward places like this as a means of survival (wink).
I ordered the same thing every day: Cod chowder. It was served in a Styrofoam cup, topped with a coffee cup lid, with one of those plastic soup spoons too big to fit in your mouth, placed inside a brown paper lunch bag. To get to the chowder, your hand had to reach into the bag, navigate through a couple of napkins, climb over a tiny container of Oyster Crackers, and push past a large piece of crusty Portuguese bread, warm and ripped right off the loaf for dipping.
The chowder was as thick and creamy as you’d expect, but with puddles of melted butter, fresh thyme and dill, and a sweetness that could only come from the hunks of fresh day boat Cod that had been perfectly poached in the broth. Sometimes in the fall, the chowder had fresh corn, in the winter, potatoes, some days fennel. It was always a little different, depending on the season, but you could always count on it being exactly what you craved, even if you didn’t know it at the time.
Although the fish shack closed almost twenty years ago, I try to recreate the chowder whenever I get the chance. Fresh seafood is hard to find in Central Florida though, and we often have to drive an hour to the coast to purchase, and Cod isn’t usually an option.
Recently, I had been researching seafood co-ops, which work exactly like farm co-ops, where you pay a monthly fee and receive a share of, in this case, wild-caught seafood. Sitka Salmon Shares reached out around the same time, and offered several samples. Hello, beautiful Cod!
Fresh is the best way to describe their seafood. There’s no fishy smell, no slimy film. You literally smell ocean. That’s it. It’s that fresh. Not only was the Pacific Cod exactly everything I had hoped it would be, their company was everything I had hoped it would be, too.
Sitka fishes only wild-caught, using sustainable methods. They are fisherman- and fair wage-centric, and a percentage of their revenue is donated to efforts promoting small-scale fisheries and conservation in Alaska. I love that. You can read more about their company and co-op options here, and when your shares arrive, give this recipe a try:
Poached Cod with Creamy Leeks and Fennel
- 3 (6-oz) pieces fresh Cod, or frozen, thawed (We love Sitka Salmon Shares!)
- ½ tsp. gray sea salt, divided
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 1 celery stalk, strings removed, finely diced (about 1/4-inch pieces)
- 1 leek, washed well and white part finely chopped (about 1/4-inch pieces)
- 1 fennel bulb, white part finely diced (about 1/4-inch pieces)
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tbsp. minced fresh (flat leaf) Italian parsley
- Fennel fronds
- Cut Cod into 2-inch pieces. Using half of the salt, season each side; set aside.
- In a large skillet melt butter over medium-low heat. When butter begins to foam, add celery, leeks, fennel, and remaining salt to pan. Sweat ingredients until translucent, about 4-6 minutes. If butter begins to brown, reduce heat to low.
- Stir in thyme and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add chicken stock and heavy cream. Bring to boiling, reduce to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes or until cream mixture thickens and leeks are just about tender. Reduce heat to lowest setting.
- Gently nestle Cod pieces into sauce, spooning some of the sauce over Cod, and cover pan. Let simmer 6 minutes or until Cod is just about opaque in the center.
- To serve, place Cod pieces in shallow bowls. Spoon sauce over Cod and top with parsley and fennel fronds.