The road to the poor and lazy (wo)man’s fish chowder:
Three months before you make this soup: Stock up on frozen tilapia. Buy lots and lots of it, more than you’ll ever want to eat. Hey, it’s a) cheap, b) healthy, and c) a no-brainer to cook. (When you start making more money your tilapia consumption will fall drastically, as you’ll be able to afford more exciting seafood.) Nothing against tilapia, mind you. It’s a perfectly pleasant fish that you’ll be thoroughly sick of by the time you’re ready to make this soup. You can also substitute cod.
Two months: Start keeping an eye out for specials on shell-on shrimp. Eat most of the shrimp, but save and freeze the shrimp shells in a Ziploc bag. Try to save up about 3-4 cups of shrimp shells. Don’t forget to freeze some shrimp for the soup, you glutton.
Two weeks: You should really clean out your freezer. Did you know that you have tilapia that’s been in there for God knows how long? Maybe you could do something new and different with it. Think about that. Look up some recipes.
One week: Remember those shrimp shells that you froze, like, months ago? Don’t they look disgusting? Remember how you’ve been meaning to do something new and creative with them, like make shellfish stock? Why don’t you try that? Go look up half a dozen recipes for shellfish stock.
Two days: You’re planning to roast the shrimp shells before lovingly simmering them for hours with aromatics, like more ambitious bloggers? Ha. No, you’ll actually toss the shrimp shells in a crock pot. You can make shellfish stock in a crock pot, right? Googling “fish stock crock pot” proves inconclusive, but whatever. Cover the shrimp shells with water, and add a splash of white wine and some carrots, celery and onion, and simmer on low for eight hours. Cool, strain, and pour into containers and freeze. Wasn’t that easy? Don’t you feel like a good, virtuous little housewife? Oh, and don’t forget to air out your apartment.
Fish chowder day: Pick a bitterly cold day. Soup tastes better on a cold day. Get out your shrimp stock, shrimp and tilapia. Sauté some chopped onions, carrots, and green pepper in olive oil on medium-high heat in a heavy soup pot. Lower the heat and added minced garlic, some dried thyme, red pepper flakes and salt. Deglaze the soup pot with ½ cup white wine.
Add 4 cups shrimp stock; ¼ tsp. crushed saffron threads; 1.5 cups of good canned tomatoes, chopped; 1 tsp. sugar; and a couple of bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the whole thing simmer for 10 minutes.
Add a tilapia fillet (about 8 oz), cut into chunks. When the tilapia is done, in about 4 minutes, add about ½ cup of shrimp (about 4 oz). Simmer the soup for a couple of more minutes, and add 2 tbs. chopped basil, a splash of lemon juice, and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Top the soup with chopped parsley before serving. Eat with crusty bread or over rice. Want more starch? You could even make this with potatoes (add some peeled potatoes, cut into ¾-inch chunks, to the simmering shrimp stock. Cook until the potatoes are done before adding the tomatoes and other ingredients.)
Post-soup: Feel virtuous. Rub your belly. Glow. You’ve made a delicious soup out of boring frozen fish and gross-looking shrimp shells. You’re a resourceful and creative cook. You rule. Your fish chowder rules. Peace.