What's the best Clam Chowder...
Here at the NJ shore (LBI) this Last weekend of September; is ChowderFest. Like a Chili Cook-off, it is a ticketed, highly contested for bragging rights, judged and popular votes go for it!
So lets's hear it from you...what is your best chowder? What do you seek in a chowder? Is it White? Is it Red? Is it cream or milk based? Does it have potatoes? Corn? Thick? Thin? Do you put chopped peppers in it? Green or red? Salt pork? Bacon? Is there West Coast chowder? Or only New England and Rhode Island? Type of clam?
Let the chowderfest begin!
I love chowder.... milk OK cream better, NO peppers, Yes to potatoes, the oldest ones you have...salt pork. Any clams, steam open in the pot you sweated the onion salt pork in, get all the briney action going. Thicken by any agent you have since it is a "poor" dish. Those old potatoes, crumbs of hard tack...dried corn.
Whenever I fillet a Salmon or large Trout I now save the frame, boil it just till the meat can come off, continue boiling the bones and save the stock for a chowder base. Celery and onions in rendered bacon fat, and yes - old potatoes, with dill, parsely and pepper corns. When it comes time to add milk I let it boil up and scald to get the sugar. I like mine thick so I add a bit of flour and let the potatoes go till they're rounded.
I thought I'd put in the account of someone more qualified than me. Clam chowder is the only food described in Moby Dick that you'd want to eat. Here's Melville's description
"Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition"
It's worth reading the whole chapter
White, milk-and-broth or broth-only based for me. (But there is a tradition of red chowder in RI and a modicum of tomatoes was used in certain chowders in NE before they were so used in NY.)
Potatoes and perhaps a touch of cream, and garnish of a little pad of butter or Pilot/common crackers are the only thickeners - no cornstarch or roux (using thickeners merely helps restaurants hold the chowder over heat without curdling - you could take it as a sign of an inability to make and serve a chowder fresh...). When a restaurant touts its "thick chowder," run, don't walk. The taste of the clams and clam broth should not be obscured.
Salt pork, not a heavily hickory-smoked bacon.
Corn and peppers are for *corn* chowder (which is a perfectly fine chowder, it's just not clam chowder...).
Yesterday I went to a Honduran restaurant in a part of the South Bronx few outsiders ever visit. I had a sopa de caracol... a clam chowder... and it was amazing. I believe that variations of this dish are served with other seafood, and it could be adapted for clams without much effort. What a yummy idea!
My description of sopa de caracol: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/448262
Caracol recipe: http://www.caske2000.org/caske/recipe...
For me, when it comes to clam chowder, simple is best. White base of milk or cream, lots of clams, butter, a little onion, salt pork, a little pepper, and potatoes. In my opinion, a great clam chowder has more clams than potato, but that's hard to find in a restaurant. I also agree that clam chowder shouldn't be thick.
-R (in Connecticut, where clam chowder is always "the soup of the day")
I like the traditional one:
New England (white), cream-based, potatoes, no corn, not too starchy thick but creamy thick...(does that make sense?), no chopped peppers (good amount of crushed black peppers), salt-pork (the only way to go IMHO), little neck clams, made with clam juice. :)