Easy Irish seafood chowder recipe with tender potatoes, flaky white fish, and a variety of shellfish. A perfect recipe for busy cooks who want a taste of Galway Bay.
I grew up in Seattle. Living by the coast meant I had the opportunity to sample many “best” clam chowder, fish chowder, and seafood stew recipes. Most of the time, these “best” chowder recipes are excellent but the absolute, hands down, best seafood chowder I have ever eaten was in an eccentrically decorated cafe 4,000 miles from home.
In March of 2003, I was in the middle of a year of school in Dublin. During a break from classes, I took two childhood friends on a short tour of Cork and Galway. This particular morning we boarded a small ferry to spend the day on Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands just off the coast of Galway City.
Inis Mor is home to a matrix of low stone walls, thatched cottages, and windswept pasture land. Truly, Inis Mor is the ultimate Irish fantasy come to life. We begin with a short bus tour around the island then spent the rest of the trip pummeled by gusts of late winter ocean wind while exploring prehistoric Dún Aengus Fort.
Seated on top of a high cliff, Dun Aengus offers sweeping views from every angle. We hiked around and explored the ancient rocky grounds snapping pictures and thinking about the ancient people who first lived on the island.
Though the sun shone most of the day the wind blew away any bits of warmth it might have provided. After a few hours, we had officially turned into popsicles. A trip to the pub allowed us to warm up with Irish Coffees before boarding the boat back to Galway. The icy wind continued to whip up the sea as we traveled eastward. On the open sea, the blustery wind buffeted the boat as we crossed the water. The heaving motion caused more than one nauseated passenger to reach for a trash can. By the time we reached the dock everyone aboard was a wee bit green around the gills.
Back on the mainland our stomachs quickly settled. Fortunately, the city center buildings blocked the gusty wind. We planned to have dinner at the unusually named, Fat Freddy’s restaurant. It had great reviews and affordable prices. Cold as we were, we decided to explore a little before dinner, then promptly got lost.
We knew we were not far from where we wanted to be but we were having a terrible time finding our way around the narrow meandering streets. As we searched it became dark and increasingly colder. When we finally found Fat Freddy’s I almost didn’t care what was served only that it arrived HOT!
Restricted by my budget I ordered simply, a bowl of Irish seafood chowder and brown bread. It was everything I wanted and more.
I could write an epic poem about the way the cream caressed the tender potatoes and the little morsels of seafood in my bowl – but I’ll spare you the emotional outburst. The heat of the piping hot chowder filled me from the inside out. Each bite quieted my growling stomach.
And the bread, oh the bread! I would take a slice of fresh Irish brown bread over the French variety any day of the week. I spread each hearty slice with a bit of butter and couldn’t have been more delighted. Irish brown bread is made with whole wheat and bran flour laced with the tiniest touch of sweet molasses. I don’t understand why folk musicians spent all their time writing about whiskey and beer – brown bread is the real Irish intoxicant.
That day, cold as it was, is how I would like to spend my time far more often, creating memories with dear friends. The rustic meal we shared was exactly what we needed to warm from the inside out and I will never forget the delightfully unusual setting. We probably only spent about €6 on dinner but we made a memory to last a lifetime.
Serve Irish seafood chowder with traditional Irish brown bread.
- 4 oz bacon, diced
- 2 medium leeks, sliced in ½ inch rounds
- 4 large celery stalks, halved and diced
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, diced
- 1 pound Sunchokes, peeled and diced (may substitute an additional pound of potatoes)
- 2 - 8oz bottles of clam juice
- 3 cups 2% low fat milk, room temperature
- 12 oz evaporated milk
- 1 pound firm white fish, cut into 1-2 inch chunks - use 2 pounds if omitting shellfish
- 1 pound assorted shell fish with shells removed - shrimp, scallops, clams, squid, mussels, etc.
- 1 or more cups of chopped parsley
- 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, sunchokes, and clam juice. Simmer the vegetables until the potatoes and sunchokes can be easily pierced by a fork - about 15 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and add all of the milk, then return bacon to the pot and add with the seafood.
- 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 and any shrimp should be fully pink.
- Toss in a handful or two of finely chopped parsley and add salt and pepper if desired. Keep the chowder on low heat until ready to serve.