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For the base:
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 heaping cup diced yellow onion
1 heaping cup diced celery
1 leek (white and pale green part only), cleaned and thinly sliced, about 1 heaping cup
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup white rice
5 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups fish stock
1 cup heavy cream
6 to 8 oz. diced beeliner snapper (from the scraps saved from the whole fish)
3 cups spring vegetables (see chef’s note below)
3 Tbs. thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley
3 Tbs. snipped chives
2 tsp. minced tarragon
1 tsp. minced dill
Freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges
Thick slices of sourdough bread, toasted
Heat the butter in large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, leek, garlic, a big pinch of salt, and a few cranks of the pepper mill. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the rice, thyme, bay leaf, and wine and cook about five minutes to reduce the wine slightly. Add the fish stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add the cream and simmer another 10 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf. Working in batches and taking care to keep the lid on tight, puree the mixture in a blender until very smooth. Strain it back into the pot through a fine mesh strainer. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat. Alternatively, you can chill the soup base and refrigerate it for two to three days before proceeding.
Chef’s Note: You will need about three cups of mixed spring vegetables. Go to the farmers market and grab whatever looks great. Any of the following items will work together in the chowder: slivered raw asparagus, blanched peas, blanched fava beans, slivered spring onions, shaved raw fennel, shaved baby turnips, shaved radish, shaved baby carrots, and cooked new potatoes. Cook them or leave them raw, depending on the vegetable.
Bring the chowder base to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the fish and vege-tables and simmer for about five minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Add all of the herbs and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide the chowder among six warm bowls. Serve with a lemon wedge and toasted sourdough slices.