A winter’s day lunch featuring fish chowder and making memories. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Don’t toy with me when it comes to fish chowder. The focus is the fish. Don’t overcook it or allow it to break up into tiny pieces. Don’t leave the potatoes too chunky. Don’t thicken it with a roux. And don’t add thyme, tarragon or any other fanciness.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

Ideally, do use homemade fish stock, but you can substitute canned fish stock (Bar Harbor brand) and/or clam juice. If you prefer, use 1/4 pound salt pork. I often use bacon because, well, I’m never without bacon.

Be gentle with the stirring and leave the pot on the back of the stove a while to give the flavors a chance to have a conversation and really get to know one another. It’s a chowder, not fish in a milk bath.

To go along with the chowder, buy Pilot Crackers if you can find them. Just don’t give me a biscuit (too white and plain). Nor do I want a blueberry muffin (too desserty). I prefer the sturdy texture and taste of a tender, slightly sweet corn muffin, buttered and hot. (Remember, if you don’t have buttermilk on hand for this recipe, simply add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk and let it sit for 10 minutes or so.)

In keeping with this old-school meal on a cold winter afternoon, let’s go outside after eating and shovel off the deck, then go snowshoeing through the woods to the harbor. Afterward, we’ll return to the warm kitchen and I’ll make strong coffee and hot chocolate from scratch, and set out a plate of crispy coconut oatmeal cookies. These were a childhood favorite of mine and now I use the grandchildren as an excuse to keep making them.

The good old days … this is how we recreate them here at the Cove.

The Cove Chowder

6 rashers bacon, diced
1 cup onions, diced
1 cup celery (including leaves), diced
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups fish stock or a combination of bottled clam juice and water
2 pounds haddock fillets, cut into 6-8 pieces
2 (6.5-ounce) cans minced clams with juice or 1 cup minced fresh clams
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
4-6 tablespoons butter

In a heavy soup pot, cook bacon until it just begins to crisp. Set aside. Add onions and celery to bacon fat and cook until soft and translucent for about 10 minutes. Add potatoes and fish stock or clam juice and water. Place fish on potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover and bring to a boil then simmer over low heat until potatoes are tender and fish flakes with a fork. Gently stir in milk and cream and heat through on low.
Add butter and bacon to the pot and gently stir again. Adjust seasonings. Yield: 6-8 servings

Yankee Corn Muffins

1 1/4 cups stoneground cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 cup fresh or (thawed) frozen corn

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 12-muffin pan or use paper liners. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Blend in eggs and liquid until smooth. Gently fold in butter and corn. Divide batter into muffin cups.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve hot. Yield: 12 servings

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flaked coconut
2 cup quick oats

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine butter and sugars and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture and blend well. Stir in coconut and oats. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden. Yield: 5 dozen

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