Most New England chowder recipes call for clams and clam juice. This is not readily available everywhere around the world. The recipe below is my own adaptation of a clam chowder recipe from a restaurant in Marblehead/Massachusetts, courtesy Josh Bevins. I use frozen fish and seafood that is readily available. And no: flour, cornstarch and other thickeners do not belong in a chowder!

  • Preparation time: 45 minutes
  • Cooking time: 1  hour
  • Makes 3 liters (3+ US quarts) of chowder = 6 main course servings with almost 200 grams (7 oz.) of seafood per serving.
  • Best when made 1 day ahead.


  • 150 grams (5-6 oz or 1/3 lb) sliced smoked pork belly (F: poitrine fumée pur porc).
  • 400 grams (1- lb) yellow onions, finely diced
  • This 2-3 large onions
  • Weight is after cleaning the onions; weight before peeling: about 500 grams (1.1 lbs)
  • Yes, this seems a lot, but it reduces quite a bit in volume - trust me!
  • 0.5 liter (2+ cups) of fish-stock (F: fumet de poisson)
  • I use 0.5 liter of water and fumet de poisson in powdered form, and overdose the powder by 50% compared to the instructions on the label.
  • Make sure to get good quality powder: check the list of ingredients on the package for high fish content - at least 20% - and no glutamate; I found Knorr brand to be OK.
  • 450 grams (1 lb) peeled and diced (2-3 cm; 1") potatoes.
  • Weight is after peeling the potatoes; weight before peeling: about 600 grams (1.3 lbs)
  • Use potatoes that stay firm when boiled - typically red or white potatoes. In France, I use the small, waxy "amandine" or "parmentine" variety with a very thin skin.
  • 500 grams (1+ lb) of mollusks and crustaceans. In France, I use a bag of large frozen pieces from our favorite frozen-food supermarket chain ("Picard")
  • 125 grams small shrimp, peeled and cooked
  • 125 grams scallops
  • 125 grams tentacles and heads of baby squid ("calamari"), blanched
  • 125 grams mussels, cooked
  • 600 grams of fish. Again, I use a bag of large frozen pieces from "Picard"
  • 200 grams cod
  • 200 grams salmon
  • 200 gr hake or pollock (F: colin lieu)
  • 1 can (360 ml / 400 grams;  1½ cup) unsweetened evaporated milk (F: lait concentré non-sucré)
  • Do not use the "light" variety!
  • 250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream (F: crème fraîche liquide)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) of Cognac - no need to use your XO on this, VSOP and even VS will do fine (but by all means, go ahead and drink the XO). Yes, go ahead and use Armagnac instead of Cognac. 


Packages of frozen Atlantic fish and seafood


Codfish, salmon, and hake or pollock


Shrimp, scallops, mussels, baby squid tentacles


  • Large size pot (7.5 liter; 8 quart)
  • Medium size pot
  • Wooden spatula
  • 2 large (!) wooden spoons (or a second wooden spatula)


  • If the fish & seafood is frozen, remove from freezer about an hour before starting to make the recipe.
  • Cut most of the fat off the pork. Do not throw away!
  • The pork may have a "skin" due to the smoking process. Cut it off and discard.
  • Cut the cleaned pork into small pieces - keep separate from the pieces of fat.

The smoked pork belly, in various stages of preparation

  • In the pot, brown the pork meat pieces in the pork fat on low heat.
  • I keep the meat pieces and fat pieces separate in the pot- see photo below. This makes it easier to only remove the fat pieces later.
  • Move the pieces around regularly with a wooden spatula, and push down on them to squeeze some of the fat out.
  • This takes about 10 minutes.
  • When most of the fat has rendered, remove the fatty pieces from the pot - do not remove the liquid fat!
  • Leave the brown parts that stick to the bottom of the pan - they will be de-glazed with the onions!


The fatty pieces (lower left hand) and meat pieces -  at beginning & end of browning

  • Remove the fatty pieces and discard.
  • Remove the browned pork meat pieces and set aside
  • On low-medium heat, sauté the onions in the pork fat until soft, cooked, and translucent - do not fry!
  • Add the fish stock, evaporated milk, cream, salt, pepper, browned pork bits, and cognac to the pot.
  • In the medium size pot, boil the cubed potatoes until almost done (this does not take long, as the potatoes are diced!!!), then set aside
  • At this point, the frozen fish and seafood is not yet fully thawed out; that is OK! Cut the fish and seafood up into 2-3 cm (1-1¼ inch) thick pieces or slices. Add to the pot.
  • At less than medium heat, slowly heat up while very carefully stirring occasionally (careful: do not break up the fish!), until the the soup is almost too hot to stick your finger in - this takes 20-30 minutes!
  • Do not bring to a boil - the cream will turn and the fish will fall apart!
  • Turn off the heat, add the potatoes, and cover the pot.
  • 20-30 minutes before serving, heat up while stirring occasionally. Again: do not bring to a boil!


  • Don't you dare serve "my" chowder with fish crackers!

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