A few years ago, I heard that eating seafood or fish on New Year’s Day was good luck. I cannot say that any great fortune has come to us since then but I cannot begin to count my blessings either.
My family looks forward to this chowder every year. Now, Iowa is obviously not the hotspot for oceanic delicacies (though we have much better access to it these days than ever before) so I am not proposing that my recipe would compete with coastal regions. However, in the middle of the winter, this warms us from the inside out.
Place cod in a medium saucepan and add salt and just enough water to cover fish.
Slowly bring water to a boil and simmer until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Carefully remove fish from "broth" and set aside.
Combine milk, half-n-half, nutmeg and one bay leaf in a saucepan on low heat, stirring often, until warm.
Sauté celery and onion in reserved bacon drippings in a dutch oven or stock pot until tender.
Sprinkle flour over celery and onions and stir, 2-3 minutes.
Add remaining bay leaf, thyme, parsley, crushed red pepper, broth, clam juice and potatoes to celery and onions and simmer until potatoes are tender (10-15 minutes).
Add black pepper (can add more pepper if desired), cod pieces, clams, crab and shrimp.
Add warm milk mixture slowly to soup base and stir to combine.
Shrimp will cook quickly and will turn pink when ready.
Taste soup and add salt and pepper if needed.
Soup can be served at this time but will taste even better if it is made one day in advance and reheated very slowly. Reheating too quickly will overcook the seafood and cause it to be tough.