For the apple butter:
- Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for one hour or until the liquid is reduced by half and the fruit is tender. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the skins. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. (This recipe makes extra. Apple butter will keep for several weeks, or freeze for longer storage. Gently warm before serving on the fish.)
For the chowder:
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and fennel, and sauté for seven minutes or until vegetables are softened and translucent. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook about one minute more or until fragrant. Add the potatoes and thyme and bay leaves, then pour in the wine (or beer), stirring to scrape up the browned bits.
- Stir in the milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the cream, sablefish, and corn, and cook for another five minutes or until the potatoes are tender and fish is warmed through.
- Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if desired.
- Ladle the soup into individual bowls, add a tablespoon or two of diced apples, and sprinkle with the chives (or scallions). Dot each bowl with a teaspoon or two of the apple butter, and drizzle with olive oil.
Chef’s notes: Try using fruit butters with roasted halibut, spot prawns, scallops, and even salmon ice cream! Create variations by replacing the pears with quince or stone fruits such as peaches, apricots, and nectarines.