A steaming bowl of chili or cauldron of soup seems essentially in cold weather. Fish chowder also satisfies that craving for me.
I went with a piece of haddock from John Yi's Saturday. Since I'm the only one in the house who enjoys this New England classic, I only used about a quarter pound of filet. A lot of folks think New England chowders have be creamy and thick. They don't. IMHO, whole milk allows the flavor of the fish to come through best.
I start out by gently sautéing in bacon fat a small onion, a stalk of celery, and half a carrot, all diced to about one-quarter inch. Once they turn translucent I add a medium diced potato, and gently sauté for about 10 minutes. Next comes about a cup of stock (I used vegetable stock made primarily from last fall's red celery from Tom Culton of Headhouse Square, though either fish or chicken stock would work very well) and a cup of milk, which simmers the veggies for another 10 minutes. By this time the potatoes are just about done, so it's time to add the fish (cut up into spoon-sized pieces), salt and pepper to taste, and thyme, dried or fresh, maintaining the pot at a simmer. After five minutes add a tablespoon of butter -- don't stir, just let it melt atop the liquid. By the time the butter adds its yellow sheen, the fish is probably cooked through. Once in the bowl, I top the chowder with fresh chopped parsley. To accompany, I used the last of my precious stock of Crown Royal crackers, a Maine favorite which has been discontinued by Nabisco, but OTCs would work well, too. Saltines and oyster crackers just don't have the necessary heft for those soup.
If you don't like plain white fish, no reason why you can't use shrimp, lobster, scallops or clams.
That filet of haddock at John Yi's in the Reading Terminal Market set me back $7.99/pound, which was also the price of the flounder. Fluke was $9.99. It was also one of those weeks where wild striped bass cost less than its farmed-raised cousin (a striped bass-white bass cross), $4.99 vs. $6.99 for whole fish. Boston mackeral has made an early appearance (it's strongest runs start in the spring), with prices ranging from $1.49 to $2.59, depending upon size. Medium-sized porgies were $2.99, cod filet (which would be an other good choice for chowder) $9.99, black sea bass $5.99.
A Wan's Seafood, the haddock would have set me back $11.99/pound. Whole striped bass as $3.99 (though the quality didn't look quite as good as at Yi's), though the filets were appealing at $9.99. Wan's was the only RTM fishmonger still selling sardines, $3.99.
Golden Fish's new cases displayed wild striped bass at $4.99, whole black sea bass at $4.99, Bronzino (another sea bass, farm-raised in Europe) for $7.99 on the bone, and particularly good looking, fat mackeral at $2.99.