- A healthy, easy, seafood chowder featuring cod, potato, leeks, and bacon!
- A good source of protein, low carb, and gluten-free.
- 6 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving.
Ireland has an incredible coastline – it is an island after all. You can find calm, smooth beaches and bustling seaports, particularly near the cities and large coastal towns. Along most of the coast, the view is more a fortress than a day at the beach. It is as if the land grew up knowing it would need to protect itself from centuries of invaders. The countryside is soft and rolling with sheep-filled fields and mile after mile of low meandering stone walls. But along the coast, the land thrusts itself up against the sea in great ragged cliffs. Millennia of crashing waves have found few inroads through these geological wonders.
The ancient clans of Ireland capitalized on the terrible beauty of the land and built their seats of power high atop the cliffs so their enemies could only attack by land and never by sea. Later the noblemen with coastal land holdings perched their stone castles on those same rocky outcroppings. If you are touring along the Antrim Coast in the North of Ireland make sure to visit Dunluce Castle which was built so precariously atop the craggy hillside the far side fell into the sea during a storm in the 17th century!
Not far to the east of Dunluce Castle is The Giant’s Causeway. While not an official wonder of the world I found the majestic rock formation to be both wondrous and awe-inspiring. The Giant’s Causeway is a section of the northern coast formed by massive hexagonal pillars of columnar basalt. These types of geological formations are created by cooling lava and occur all over the world; in fact, we have them here in Washington State. However, there is something about the way this particular formation created stair steps down the hillside that disappear into the crashing waves that make the Giant’s Causeway a magical palace.
The magical feeling of the Causeway site did not go unnoticed by the region’s ancient inhabitants. In Irish mythology, the causeway was built by the giant Finn MacCool so he could walk to Scotland to battle a second giant. There are multiple versions of this ancient story but it is from these tales the site got its name.
The entire Antrim Coast is a fantastic day trip. East again of the Causeway you can take a hair-raising stroll across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge that spans a 24 meter deep and 18 meter wide chasm (a gaping divide over treacherous rocks and violent waves!) to a tiny island where you can gaze out to the vast sea while engulfed in the remarkable perfume of seabirds. It really is a great experience.
Between Dunluce Castle and The Giant’s Causeway, you can stop and visit Bushmill’s Distillery and sample their 400-year-old whiskey recipe in a picture-perfect town with the same name. If you visit please tell me if there the miniature horses still live next to the parking lot.
A day on this majestic coast would not be complete without a bit of seafood. Even in the summer, the wind whips along the rocks and you will likely be in the mood for something to warm you from the inside out – although the whiskey will help. Chances are very good you will be able to find a restaurant serving a traditional seafood chowder. When in Ireland you must order your seafood chowder with slices of brown bread and butter.
Of course, you don’t have to buy a plane ticket to enjoy great seafood chowder. This easy chowder recipe can be made with very little fuss. To make the meal fully authentic pair it with Traditional Irish Brown Bread or give your meal an Irish-American twist with homemade croutons made from a day-old loaf of chewy sourdough. While the soup simmers take a moment to close your eyes and imagine waves crashing, shore birds calling, smell the salt air, feel its sting on your face, and conjure an image of cliffs, craggy and menacing against the constant attack of the sea. Then turn and gaze upon the soft green rolling landscape, quiet and protected unaware of the violence below.
Recommended for this Recipe:
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- 4 oz smoked bacon
- 2 medium leeks, white and pale green, sliced in ¼ inch crescents
- 2 large celery stalks, halved and diced
- 1 lb Russet potatoes, peeled & diced
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 - 8oz bottles of clam juice
- 1½ cups whole milk, room temperature
- 12 oz low fat evaporated milk
- 2 pounds cod fish, cut into 11/2 inch chunks
- 1 cup of chopped parsley
- Optional: a few sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme, leaves only
- Cook the bacon in large dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat until it has turned brown and crispy. Once the bacon has browned remove it to a paper towel lined plate. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat.
- Add leeks and celery to pot and cook them until they begin to soften (about 5 minutes), stir frequently.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the potatoes and clam juice, add thyme now if including. Simmer the vegetables until the potatoes can be easily pierced by a fork, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, crumble or dice the bacon strips into small bits. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of the bits for garnish.
- When the potatoes are tender - reduce the heat to medium low and add all of the milk, then return bacon (minus 1 tablespoon) to the pot and add the fish.
- Simmer the chowder on low to medium low heat, make sure it does not begin to boil. The chowder is ready when fish has cooked through, about 15 minutes. The fish should be flaky but firm.
- Toss in a handful or two of finely chopped parsley and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Keep the chowder on low heat until ready to serve. Garnish with additional parsley and reserved bacon.
To make crispy croutons: Set your oven rack to the second vertical slot below the top (not the very top). Cube up some day old bread (from a whole loaf not pre-sliced). For this recipe I used a thick crusty sourdough. Make the cubes roughly 1½-2 inches each. Mist the cubes with a bit of olive oil and arrange them on rimmed baking pan. Place the pan in the oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes but keep a close eye (and nose) on your bread. When it is dark golden brown on top flip the cubes and toast for an additional 2-5 minutes until the second side is dark golden brown.