SERVES 4 TO 6
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels and set aside.
Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the stockpot. Add the onions and celery and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and just enough seafood stock or clam juice to cover them, adding some cold water if necessary. Raise the heat and bring the liquid to a boil; then, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook until the potatoes are almost tender enough to pierce with a fork, about 15 minutes.
Uncover the pot and carefully lay the fish fillets on top of the vegetables. Cover the pot again and cook the fish until barely opaque, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and thyme and gently stir, trying not to break the fish fillets into too many pieces. Remove the pot from the heat and leave it to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours or, for an even better flavor, overnight.
Before serving, warm the soup over medium-low heat, stirring in the 2 tablespoons butter. Ladle into heated bowls and garnish with bacon bits and parsley.
Ruthie Appleyard, my late wife Paula’s first cousin, lives on our road in Maine year round. An amazing cook, particularly with her wonderful local seafood recipes, Ruthie brought this delicious soup to our house on a cold night one Thanksgiving weekend, and it blew me away. Better still, Ruthie generously agreed to share her recipe in this cookbook. She says that, for a bigger crowd, the recipe doubles easily.
4 to 5 ounces good-quality bacon
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 pound potatoes, such as Yukon Gold or Russet Burbank, peeled and diced
3 cups seafood stock or 3 (8-ounce) bottles store-bought clam juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 cups heavy cream, half and half, or a combination
2 pounds fresh haddock or cod fillets
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter