Much like the kids who got sneakers, lunch boxes and calculators this weekend, we too got something shiny and new. A truck. Can you believe it? It’s a beast. I still cannot believe it.

Where can we find “My other ride is a Prius Hybrid / Ford F150 XLT 4×4” bumper stickers?

In the spirit of back to school, I have here for you a hearty and colorful fish chowder. Yes, fish chowder.

If you want to make this for the family but your children [like me at that age] don’t like fish, chicken or shrimp are easy substitutes. You could even add cannellini beans or chickpeas for a vegetarian option.

The recipe is one that was featured at a farm-to-table feast in Austin last summer. It starts by simmering the bones and head of a snapper or grouper.

You don’t have to make your own stock — you could easily purchase it at the market and that’s fine. But homemade adds so much depth and rich flavor.

Plus your kids will love seeing the fish head in a pot.

Go ahead, give it a try. Have fun and be brave!

And be prepared to share a sample or two. She pawed incessantly at the door. We were rendered helpless by her cuteness.

Adding the fish fillets at the very end off the heat, keeps them flaky and moist.

A healthy soup with a little veggie heft, perfect for the late summer months. Your kids, possibly even the ones who swear to hate fish, will love it!

Fish Chowder with Aioli Crostini [serves 4]

Garlicky aioli slathered on the warm crostini and floated in the soup is essential. He suggests making extra. You will want more.

Printable recipe

For the fish chowder:

4 lbs. fresh snapper or grouper, filleted; bones and head reserved

4 bay leaves

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1/2 t cumin

1/2 t coriander

1/2 t fennel seeds


1 c chopped tomatoes

1/2 c white wine

8 small potatoes, diced

2 ear corn, kernels cut from cobs [or 1 c frozen corn, thawed]

fresh basil, chiffonade, for garnish [no basil on hand here; added dried basil to the aioli instead]

For the aioli:

1 egg yolk

6 cloves garlic


1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

4 slices baguette, cut 1/2″ thick on the diagonal, toasted

To make the fish chowder: In a large covered stock pot, bring 2 quarts of water, 2 bay leaves, and the fish bones and head to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, skimming off foam. Cut fish fillets into 1″ pieces and put back into the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat oil over medium heat and add remaining 2 bay leaves, onion, spices and salt to taste. Cook until onions soften, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add white wine to pot of vegetables. Then, pouring through a fine strainer, add fish stock; simmer. Discard bones and head, picking off any extra cooked meat if desired. [Snatch up those cheeks before tossing the bones away!] Add potatoes and corn, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat, season with salt, and add fillet pieces. Allow fillets to cook in hot broth until flaky, about 5 minutes.

For the aioli: Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, mash yolk, garlic and 1 t salt to create a paste. Add oil, a drop at a time, stirring until aioli thickens. [Or make a cheat’s aioli: smash 1 clove of garlic and 1/2 t salt with the back of a knife, and then mix that with 2 T good mayonnaise. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.]

For serving: Discard bay leaves, divide soup among 4 bowls and garnish with basil. Spread aioli on toast, then float bread on soups.

Adapted from Country Living Magazine.