The author of Southampton pens a cookbook using New England seafood
Southampton native Craig J Fear has written two cookbooks about soups, including a Thai soup book that grew out of his travels to Thailand. But he’s from the Northeast and the seafood soup cookbook was simmering on a back burner.
“And that includes a lot more than just chowder,” he said. “I wanted to share so many recipes, traditions, and histories from all over New England.”
The result is his latest cookbook, “New England Soups from the Sea: Recipes for Chowders, Bisques, Boils, Stews, and Classic Seafood Medleys,” which offers 80 locally inspired seafood recipes that honor Northeast America’s coastal traditions.
With fresh new flavors like Maine lobster bisque, salty mussel bisque, and seasonal clam boil, this comprehensive seafood cookbook embraces the locavore movement and sustainable seafood. It includes recipes for seafood gravies, powdered food, biscuits, stews, salami, and stocks, plus 33 profiles of fish and shellfish and tips on how to befriend the local fisherman.
“I am…a big proponent of eating locally and sustainably, and saw an opportunity to write about the many underappreciated New England seafood in need of more consumer demand,” said Fair. “So while there are of course recipes for oysters, mussels, lobsters, and cod, I also educate and encourage my readers to be curious and try the lesser-known ones.”
For a warm, hearty meal, try any of these chowder recipes, he suggests. “And don’t let anyone tell you that chowder is unhealthy. It’s a myth. If it’s made with real, homemade ingredients, it’s healthy,” said the former Northampton nutritional therapist who advised people on their diets.
He noted that most seafood is a good source of minerals such as iodine and selenium. “Fatty fish and many types of shellfish are great sources of omega-3s, which our bodies cannot synthesize, and which we need from dietary sources,” he said, adding that the source of the seafood is just as important, “if not the case,” as it is of nutritional value.
He pointed out that although there is an abundant and sustainable stock of fish and shellfish, 90% of seafood is imported from America. When we buy farmed salmon and farmed shrimp from abroad at the expense of local seafood, it hurts local fishermen and fishing economies. It is important as consumers that we ask where our seafood comes from and try to support local fisheries.”
Fright, which services Sunderland blue herons, is valued for the flavor of the fresh local fish. “I really love anything that comes from the sea. I just adore bright, refreshing flavors from the ocean.” He likes more full-flavored fish like bluefish, swordfish, mackerel, and striped bass because of the rich flavor that comes from their higher fat content than milder fish like cod and haddock. “But I still love mild whitefish, too!”
Cooking fish can be difficult because fish fillets cooked using dry heat methods such as baking and grilling can easily overcook and dry out. “This is another great reason to use fish in soup,” said Fair. “Fish is most forgiving when cooked in moist heat, like in a soup. When submerged in hot liquid, fish (and shellfish, too) tend to cook more evenly, and retain their freshness and moisture over a longer period of time.”
He enjoys experimenting with different flavors with different combinations, especially from different cuisines. “Soups are in many ways like a blank canvas. You start with a basic soup or broth and then the possibilities are endless,” he said. “Spices, herbs, seasonings, oils, vinegars, vegetables, chilies, etc. can be combined in endless combinations for some interesting results And really interesting.”
Fear thoroughly tested all 80 recipes over the three years it took him to write the book, published by Countryman Press. He also recruited other people to test recipes for him, too.
Chowders, bisques, stews, stews, and seafood classics are meant to be complete meals on their own, so they don’t necessarily need a side dish. “However, a nice, warm piece of bread, dipped in butter, is probably the best soup and soup supplement,” he said.
He has self-published three other books: The 30-Day Heartburn Solution on ways to combat heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux, and other digestive problems. “Fearless Broths and Soups,” which includes a large collection of soup recipes made with homemade broth; and “The Secret of Thai Soup,” which includes 40 classic Thai soup recipes such as Hot and Sour Prawn Soup and Coconut Chicken Soup.
New England Soups from the Sea sells for $24.95 and is available locally at River Valley Market in Northampton and Eastampton and online at major bookstore locations. For more information, go online to author Craig Fear’s website, fearlesseating.net.