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Smoked Sablefish and Apple Chowder

Serves 4 to 6

The smoked sablefish has the mouthwatering flavor and aroma of freshly sizzled bacon, so pairing it with tart-sweet Granny Smiths was a no-brainer. Chef Ned layers the apple component into the dish in both the velvety broth and as a crisp raw apple garnish. You could certainly buy premade apple butter, but if you have the time to make it from scratch, it’s well worth it.

WHAT YOU NEED:

For the apple butter
  • 1 1/4 lb tart apples such as Granny Smith , unpeeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
For the chowder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 bulb fennel, cored and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup white wine or pale ale (not too hoppy)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 lb golden smoked sablefish, skinned, deboned, and diced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled and shredded
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives or scallions
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Apple Butter (see above)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

WHAT YOU DO:

For the apple butter
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until the liquid is reduced by half and the fruit is tender. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the skins. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. (This recipe makes extra. Apple butter will keep for several weeks, or freeze for longer storage. Gently warm before serving on the fish.)
For the chowder
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and fennel, and sauté for 7 minutes or until vegetables are softened and translucent. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook about 1 minute more or until fragrant. Add the potatoes and thyme and bay leaves, then pour in the wine (or beer), stirring to scrape up the browned bits.
  2. Stir in the milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the cream, sablefish, and corn, and cook for another 5 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and fish is warmed through.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if desired.
  4. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, add a tablespoon or two of diced apples, and sprinkle with the chives (or scallions). Dot each bowl with a teaspoon or two of the apple butter, and drizzle with olive oil.

Chef’s notes: Try using fruit butters with roasted halibut, spot prawns, scallops, and even salmon ice cream! Create variations by replacing the pears with quince or stone fruits such as peaches, apricots, and nectarines.