Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to the kitchen, and bawling out "clam for two," disappeared.
"Queequeg," said I, "do you think that we can make a supper for us both on one clam?"
However, a warm and savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friend, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we dispatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey's clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word "cod" with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us. (Chapter 15, Moby Dick)Mrs. Hussey, the proprietress of the Try Pots, inquired of all of her guests: "Clam or cod?" I had to ask myself this same question. Not wanting to deal with shucking clams or using a canned substitute, I chose to make cod chowder. Here's my recipe for Try Pots Cod Chowder:
3 slices of bacon, "cut up into little flakes"
1 onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 T. flour
2 cans diced potatoes, drained
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to make it "plentifully seasoned"
1 pound frozen cod, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 small can of corn, drained
1 cup half and half, warmed
1 or 2 T. butter (optional)
Oyster crackers for serving (call them "ship biscuits" if you like)
Cook bacon in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Cook until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon bits and put aside. Leave the bacon grease in the pot.
Add the onion, celery, thyme, and bay leaf to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. The vegetables should be soft but not brown. Add the flour and stir for another couple of minutes.
Add the potatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. If you want "the whole enriched with butter", add the butter here, along with the cod and corn. Do not stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the cod to finish cooking.
Return chowder to heat and add the half-and-half. Stir it in gently to avoid flaking the fish. Add more salt and pepper or butter to taste. Warm chowder over gentle heat, uncovered.
Dish into bowls and sprinkle reserved bacon bits over the top. Serve with oyster crackers.
*If you choose clam instead of cod, substitute two 6 1/2 ounce cans of minced clams for the cod. If you prefer a "fishier" flavor, use 2 cups of chicken broth and two 8-ounce bottles of clam juice instead of four cups of chicken broth in either recipe.
This chowder is so good, I may imitate Ishmael and Queequeg and have it for breakfast with "a couple of smoked herring by way of variety."