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RECIPE: New England Clam Chowder

January 21st is National New England Clam Chowder Day, with a cream base. There is no National Manhattan Clam Chowder Day, honoring the tomato-base version; but you can have your choice of recipes on February 25th.

THE HISTORY OF CHOWDER

Chowder is a type of soup (see below for the major categories) made with potatoes and onions. It can include clams or other seafood, chicken, corn and creative variations.

A friend of ours has an old family recipe from Maine for a haddock chowder. Feel free to combine fish and shellfish. How about a surf-and-turf chowder with both chicken and fish or shellfish?

The word chowder has its roots in the Latin calderia, which originally meant a hearth for warming things and later came to mean a cooking pot. The word evolved to cauldron, which in French became chaudiere, a word that easily became chowder in English.

The first chowders in our culture were fish chowders, made in cauldrons in fishing villages along the coast of France and in the Cornwall region of Southwestern England. When the fishermen came to the New World, they found clams in huge supply along the northern Atlantic coast, and clam chowder was born.

Celebrate today—or any day demanding a hearty soup—with this yummy clam chowder.

RECIPE: NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER

This one-pot recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit, can be made a day in advance, up to Step 5. Bring the chowder to a simmer before adding the clams on the second day.

Substitutes:

Whichever clams are freshest are the ones to use. We’ve used razor clams, and actually prefer them for the surprise factor and arty appearance.

If you have no access to fresh clams, you can substitute two 10-ounce cans of baby clams, plus 6 cups of bottled clam juice (not clam juice cocktail) for the broth.

Ingredients For 8 One-Cup Servings

  • 8 pounds clams in shell*, scrubbed
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold† potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Garnish: chopped fresh chives or parsley
  • Oyster crackers or saltines
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    Preparation

    1. BRING the clams and water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Cook until the clams are just open, 8-10 minutes; discard any that do not open. Drain, reserving the broth. Transfer the clams to a baking pan, rimmed sheet or platter; let cool until comfortable to handle, remove the meat and discard the shells. This step can be done 1 day ahead. Cover the clams and broth separately and refrigerate.

       

    New England Clam Chowder

    New England Clam Chowder

    Clam Chowder Bread Bowl

    [1] The clam chowder recipe with bacon from Bon Appetít. [2] Some recipes are heavier on the cream, but that gives you more cream flavor, less clam-vegetable flavor (photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.). [3] Clam chowder in individual bread bowls at Arch Rock Fish of Santa Barbara (alas, now closed).

     

    2. CHOP the clams into bite-size pieces. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Add water to measure 6 cups.

    3. MELT the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the celery, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

    4. ADD the reserved broth, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.

    5. COMBINE the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl to form a slurry, and stir it into the chowder. Return the chowder to a boil to thicken. DO day ahead. Let cool; discard the bay leaf.

    6. STIR in the clams and cream. Taste and season with salt as needed (some clams are brinier than others) and pepper; or allow diners to season their own. Divide the chowder among bowls. Garnish with chives or parsley. Serve with and oyster crackers.
    ________________

    *Discard any uncooked clams with broken or opened shells; these can collect bacteria. Conversely, discard any cooked clams with shells that have not opened.

    †Substitute Baby Dutch potatoes or other waxy potato (here are the different types of potatoes).

     

    Manhattan Clam Chowder

    Rhode Island Clam Chowder

    Razor Clams

    [4] A beautiful Manhattan Clam Chowder from an Australian cooking competition, MasterChef. [5] Rhode Island Clam Chowder has a clear base. Here’s the recipe from The New York Times. [6] Sweet-flesh razor clams can look exotic, yet beautiful, in a clam chowder (photo courtesy The Fish Society).

     

    Types Of Clam Chowder

  • New England Clam Chowder. If you like creamy soups, the New England style may be more of your cup of soup. It’s milk- or cream-based (with flour as a thickener), and splattering it is unlikely to permanently ruin that shirt or tie.
  • Manhattan Clam Chowder. If you want to save calories or cut back on cholesterol, Manhattan Clam Chowder is based on broth and tomatoes. It is actually an Italian clam soup, arriving on these shores with Italian immigrants in the late 1800s. It tends to be seasoned with oregano, from its Italian heritage. The original Italian soup achieved broader appeal with the name of New York Clam Chowder, which evolved to Manhattan Clam Chowder.
  • Rhode Island Clam Chowder. This variation, found chiefly in Rhode Island, is made with clear broth.
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    THE DIFFERENCES: BROTH, CHOWDER, SOUP & MORE

  • Bisque: A thick, creamy soup that traditionally was made from puréed shellfish. Today bisques are also made from fruits, game fish and vegetables.
  • Broth & Stock: Liquids in which meat, fish, grains or vegetables have been simmered. The difference between a broth and a stock is that broth is made from the desirable ingredients; stock is made from “leftovers” such as bones and skin; thus broth is richer and more nourishing than stock. Both are used as a base for soups and gravies.
  • Chowder: Chunky soups thickened with flour. The main ingredient chowder can range widely, including chicken, corn, fish and seafood.
  • Consommé: A broth that has been clarification. This means that egg whites or other ingredients are boiled in the broth to coagulate the sediment, resulting in a clear, elegant-looking soup.
  • Gumbo: A dish that can fall into the soup or stew category, a strong stock of meat and/or fish/seafood, with pieces of the protein and a variety of vegetables, served over rice. Gumbo is traditionally thickened with okra or filé powder (from the sassfras tree) and vegetables. A gumbo is traditionally served over rice.
  • Gravy: Gravy is not a soup, but a sauce; although Americans have often turned canned soups into sauces. Gravies are made from the juices of cooked meat or vegetables after they have been cooked. Almost all gravies start with a roux (ROO), a mixture of flour and butter; and are thickened with starch (flour, corn starch, arrowroot, etc).
  • Purée: Some soups are puréed into smoothness. A purée can be considered a vegetable or grain/pulse counterpoint to a bisque. The technique also produces smooth apple sauce, whipped potatoes and puréed vegetables (carrot purée, broccoli purée, etc.).
  • Ragout: The French term for a main-dish stew. Note that in Italian, n Italian cuisine, ragù is a meat-based pasta sauce.
  • Soup: Any combination of ingredients cooked in a liquid base: fish/seafood, fruit, meats, starches and vegetables. Soups can be thick and hearty or thin and delicate. While cooked ingredients can remain in the soup, the objective of the ingredients is to flavor the liquid. Soup can be served warm, room temperature or chilled. Fruit soups can be served for starters or desserts.
  • Stew: A hearty dish made from proteins, vegetables, pulses, etc., simmered in a liquid (water, broth, stock, wine, beer) and then served in the resulting gravy. Stewing is a technique to cook less tender cuts of meat: The slow cooking method tenderizes the meat and the lower temperature allows the flavors to combine. There is a thin line between soups and chunky soups; generally, stews contain less liquid. Sometimes the name is adopted for a soup. Oyster Stew, for example, is a thick soup with butter and milk or cream, like a bisque.
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    MORE FOR SOUP LOVERS

    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SOUP

    THE HISTORY OF SOUP

      




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