Helen’s Haddock Fish Chowder

When Helen and Larry Mugnai opened Helen’s Restaurant in Machias, Maine, in 1950, their haddock fish chowder—made with North Atlantic fish—was served only on Fridays. So you can thank current owners Julie and David Barker, who made some slight alterations (let’s call them improvements) to the “wildly popular” chowder, for making it a daily item.

The simplicity of this haddock fish chowder is all Down East ingenuity: The haddock is cooked in the potato water, and that broth becomes the basis of the chowder. When a devastating fire forced the Barkers to rebuild their restaurant, they upgraded the design by relocating a fireplace and adding small conference rooms and a bar, but they knew where to draw the line: They wouldn’t dream of changing the menu, which means that the haddock fish chowder is here to stay.

Total Time: 45 minutes
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings


Helen’s Original Fish Chowder


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium-size onion, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 medium-size russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 1/2 – 3 pounds skinned fresh haddock, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill


In a 5- to 7-quart pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Pour the water into a 3- to 4-quart pot and add the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the fish to the potato liquid and simmer until the fish begins to flake, about 10 minutes. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and add it and the potatoes to the cooked onions in the larger pot. Stir.

Slowly add the potato/fish broth and the heavy cream to the onion/fish/potato mixture. Stir well. Add the salt and white pepper; then add the dill. Simmer gently over low heat for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

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