I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where chowder is a diet staple. If you've managed to make it to 5 years old without trying some kind of chowder - clam, oyster, fish, etc. - then there's definitely something odd going on.
Because I had some unpredictable allergic reactions to seafood as a child I was a little more sheltered than most and usually stuck to clam chowder. It wasn't until I started spending more time on the East Coast that I finally tried salmon chowder. Since then it's become a family favorite. It's easy to whip up a pot on the weekends and take it to work for lunch throughout the week - especially because I think it tastes even better the next day after it's been chilled and all of the flavors have had a chance to really meld. I think it creates a much deeper, richer flavor.
The original recipe calls for fish stock, which can be difficult to find and I find obnoxious to make on my own. Kitchen Basics does make a boxed stock that I find delicious and you can usually find it at Whole Foods (their clam stock is fabulous for making clam chowder, also). If you can't find a seafood stock then use chicken stock, but remember to use stock - not broth.
This is a key part of soup making of which many people tend to miss out - stock and broth are two very different things. Stock is made using browned bones, meat and vegetables. It has a rich, hearty flavor with a great deal of depth. Broth is made using just meat and vegetables and tends to have a much more subtle flavor. Think of it as the difference between using a a carcass from a roasted chicken vs. pieces of chicken meat to flavor the liquid. Both have their purposes, but one must be aware that they are indeed different.
Now that we're entering fall and soups are on the table much more frequently, I think it's worth it to pay attention to little details like this.
Finally, use great ingredients. Just because everything is getting tossed into a pot and brought to a boil doesn't mean that there isn't a certain amount of finesse involved in soup making and that the quality of your ingredients doesn't matter - it does.
Even if you aren't buying organic, all-natural onions farmed by Swedish models and washed in dew by the light of a full moon (which I'm pretty sure you can buy at Whole Foods at this point), buy the best ingredients you can for what you can spend.
You'll notice the difference and you'll enjoy your meals so much more.
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
1 fennel bulb, white part only, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart seafood/chicken stock
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into ½ in. cubes
1 lb. salmon, skinned, deboned and cut into ¾ in. cubes
1 cup fat-free milk
¼ cup cream
2-3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter in a soup pot (at least 6 quarts). Add the onion, leek and fennel and sweat over medium heat until softened but not browned – approx. 5-8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine, cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the seafood stock and add the potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add the cubed salmon and stir gently. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes. Combine the milk and cream in a dish and microwave until lukewarm, about 1 minute. Add the milk mixture and the chopped dill and warm through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread.
Note: You can skip the cream altogether and use all 2% milk to compensate for the richness of the cream. Be careful if using only fat-free dairy products because then tend to curdle if brought to a boil.