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Fish Chowders for an Easy Entree

October 29, 1987|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving.

If there is such a thing as a light but hearty entree, a good fish chowder is it. These savory combinations are full of vegetables and low-calorie fish, yet they fill you up admirably.

Fish cooks beautifully in the microwave and so do soups and stews. The two fish chowders that follow differ considerably in their cooking method, appearance and flavor.

Creamy Whitefish Chowder starts with whitefish cooked with butter and seasonings, which is stirred into a melange of garden vegetables. The soup is chunky with vegetables and develops a seafood flavor that permeates each spoonful in a fresh and delicate way.

A Colorful Chowder

Finfish and Shellfish Chowder is flavored with fish stock and clam juice and is thickened with potato puree and seasoned with leeks, green chiles and garlic. Chunks of bright tomato and thin slices of zucchini add texture and color. Cubes of firm sea bass, whole medium shrimp and a dash of wine complete this savory dish.

When making seafood chowders, gather all the ingredients and even chop all the vegetables before starting. A fish stew is rather like a stir fry--once you start the cooking procedure, it's best to keep it going.

Great for Leftovers

Although both these chowders traditionally are served as main courses, you could serve small portions of either as an excellent appetizer. Leftover chowder mellows in flavor and tastes delicious after a day or two of refrigeration. Try to use it up within about two days, however, or freeze it.

You can use one to two pounds of fresh, cleaned fish fillets in Creamy Whitefish Chowder. With two pounds, it will be very thick, and you will need to add up to a cup more milk to thin it to a thick stew consistency. Even at its thickest, the microwave will not burn the chowder on the bottom.

CREAMY WHITEFISH CHOWDER

2 pounds fresh whitefish fillets

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

3 cups peeled and cubed potatoes

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

2 medium stalks celery, sliced

2 cups cut fresh corn or 1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn kernels

1/4 cup flour

2 cups milk (plus additional milk as necessary to thin soup)

In 8-inch square microwave dish, place fish, butter, salt and pepper. Cover dish with plastic wrap and microwave at HIGH (100% power) 5 to 8 minutes, breaking up fish and rearranging underdone pieces at outside edges of dish every 3 minutes. Fish is done when no longer translucent.

In 3-quart microwave casserole, place potatoes, carrots, onion, celery and corn. Microwave at HIGH 15 to 18 minutes or until vegetable chunks are tender-crisp. Add flour and toss until flour is evenly distributed.

Add milk and microwave at HIGH 5 to 8 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes, until mixture has boiled and is smooth. Add fish pieces with liquid and seasonings in dish. Add additional milk (up to 1 cup) as necessary to thin chowder to desired consistency. Stir and reheat 2 to 3 minutes or until hot. Makes 8 servings.

FINFISH AND SHELLFISH CHOWDER

2 medium white potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 cups bottled clam juice or fish stock

2 large leeks, tops cut off about 1 inch above white bulb, thinly sliced

1 medium mild green chile, chopped

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped

2 slender zucchini, trimmed and sliced

1/4 cup rose wine

1 1/2 pounds boneless sea bass, cut in 1-inch cubes

1/2 pound medium peeled shrimp, deveined

Chopped cilantro (optional)

In 3-quart microwave casserole, place potatoes and 1 cup clam juice. Cover and microwave at HIGH (100% power) 10 to 14 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until chunks are tender. Pour potatoes and liquid into container of food processor fitted with steel blade. Process until smooth (mixture will be thick). Set aside.

In same 3-quart casserole, place leeks, chile, garlic and half of butter. Cover and microwave at HIGH 5 to 7 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until hot and well blended.

Stir in remaining clam juice along with pureed potatoes, salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes and zucchini. Cover and microwave at HIGH 15 to 18 minutes or until soup is hot and bubbly and zucchini is tender. Carefully stir in wine, fish, shrimp and remaining butter and continue microwaving at HIGH 4 to 7 minutes or until seafood is no longer translucent. Sprinkle each serving with chopped cilantro. Makes 6 servings.

Note: If desired, you can substitute another firm-fleshed fish, like grouper, for half of sea bass.

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