|Bat Ray Chowder a' La Jones
For many years my father was just like many of the pier regulars I talk about in this book. However, he didn't fish the piers. He fished around Mission Bay in San Diego. Dad would pump some live ghost shrimp, or pry loose a few mussels, and then find a secluded cove or sandy outcropping. He'd set up rod holders, cast out two long poles, and then sit back to enjoy that smoke which he knew was bad for him but which he wasn't allowed to sneak at home. He became a regular and he learned how to catch fish, a lot of fish, a lot of big fish. Although he caught many large fish (including guitarfish nearly five feet in length), the heaviest were the big old bat rays. Luckily for the bat rays, their flesh has a crab-like consistency; dad preferred the guitarfish and their solid meat. Most bat rays were released but a few were kept which he would usually make into chowder. Here's his recipe.
3 to 4 pounds of bat ray cut into scallop-like cubes
2 cans of clam juice (approximately 10 ounces each)
4 pieces of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 onion, diced
2 large stalks of celery, skinned and cubed
4 medium-sized potatoes, cubed
1 quart milk
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 tablespoon pepper
3 tablespoons butter
Fry the bacon in a small skillet over a low heat until brown, about five minutes. Add the diced onion and cook until they are soft, about three to five minutes. Pour the oil from the skillet into a larger pan while reserving the bacon and onion. Add the clam juice to the larger pan and bring to a boil. Add the cubed potatoes and celery and cook until tender. Add the bat ray, cover and simmer for about 10 more minutes. Add the bacon and onion, milk, butter, and the salt and pepper. Keep it hot (but do not let it boil). Serve.