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New England Clam Chowder: To Corn or not to Corn?

Is it sacrilege to add corn/sub for potatoes? Any thoughts on one way or the other?

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  1. Yes, sacrilege. And I'm not even a native New Englander. Chowder of any sort needs potatoes.
    Corn chowder, and chicken corn chowder, are excellent in their own right. If you are determined to use clams and corn together, it would be better to include potato. So, essentially, just add corn to a typical clam chowder recipe.

    1. Another not-from-New-Englander, but I say sacrilege to omit the potatoes. I'm not "upset" by the idea of the corn, but I think it will make the chowder too sweet if the potato is omitted.

      1 Reply
      1. If I had great corn available... would probably add it and risk being struct by lightning!! Wouldn't skip the potatoes, though. Only time I've ever been in New England was on ski vacation, so have no idea where on the "heretic" scale I would fall. Might really be risking WRATH when I say my preference of New Englan or Manhattan... is a toss up!?! But I like bacon in both.

        1. New Englander here and I say add the corn, but keep the potatoes. My favorite chowder ever ditched the clams for lobster and chorizo with potatoes/fresh corn. But then how bad can anything be when it includes lobster?

          1 Reply
          1. re: escondido123

            I think I know what I'm making for supper....

          2. In New England as I post this and been many many times but not from NE.
            Just my thought on the question, please no corn in clam chowder. If you must do corn in a chowder make corn chowder, also delicious.
            Some use a rue to thicken their ClamC so if you want a corn flavor (if even just a tiny bit of it) maybe use corn flour. Sounds like you don't want the taters but do want corn.

            1. I'm from New England (born, bred, never leavin'). My two cents?

              You can add corn to clam chowder, but it wouldn't be New England clam chowder. My nana used to say it used winter pantry items...potatoes, salt pork, onions...that the typical NE housewife would have on hand in the winter.

              3 Replies
              1. re: pinehurst

                would you mind cooking me your nana's CLC tonight?
                had that sounds good and more what I know of CLC .

                1. re: iL Divo

                  I would love to! :-)
                  I had a take out pizza night last night though...too hot to cook. Sigh.

                  1. re: pinehurst

                    pinehurst: one day I'm going to try and remember to proof read but I may be 112 by then :)
                    I do 'take out pizzas' too, we probably all do.
                    but.... > one day I'll hope for a small FEDEX'd pkg of your nana's clam chowder.
                    I'll make you my chocolate crumble topped banana muffins.
                    I'm smiling here *+}

              2. Corn with shrimp as a chowder - definitely. Corn & clams - no way.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Clams047

                  corn and clams are both part of traditional clambakes on the beach. they go together perfectly well.

                  ne clam chowder was made from larder items in the winter, so corn would not have been in season.

                  if you want to add corn, go right ahead, but it then ceases to be ne clam chowder.

                  personally, i think a corn chowder garnished with clams would be better.

                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                      Not in clam chowder, they don't.....


                      chowder isn't part of a clambake, so i'm unsure of your point. obviously beach clambakes are a summertime thing when corn on the cob is in season.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        I know what your saying. But my family always made our chowder in massive pots the night before. We most certainly did enjoy it with our clam bakes. I'm talking about corn as an ingredient in the chowder, not the clam bake.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          When you went to the shore dinner hall at Rocky Point in RI for a clambake, you were always served clam chowder and clam cakes first. So I guess it depends on which clambakes you're talking about.

                          1. re: escondido123

                            It wasn't a clam bake without clam cakes & chowdah......

                            1. re: escondido123

                              lol ~~ ri is like the red-headed step child. it won't be claimed by mass or long island. in any event, they have their own weird "chowder", and what happens there isn't what might happen in mass or maine.


                    2. Make your chowder anyway you want, just don't call it New England. People up that way are touchy about anyone tampering with their century old tradition of thickening clam chowder with potatoes.

                      While the oldest chowder recipes used ships biscuits as the thickener/starch, I wouldn't be surprised if New England natives also used corn meal in their seafood stew/soups. That though is different from using modern sweet corn.

                      Bon Appetit recipe using both corn and clams
                      Tod English's version
                      CRAIG CLAIBORNE; PIERRE FRANEY

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: paulj

                        For New England chefs and home cooks, NE Clam Chowder is a basic just waiting to be played with and there are very few who don't appreciate a good riff on the classic in my experience.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          Obviously stated by someone not from the region....

                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                            Ah, but you are wrong. I lived in RI for more than 25 years and my husband is a RI native...obviously from the region.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              And proof that not *everyone* from the region is closed-minded and pedantic.... ;-). Unlike my MIL, God love her.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                Never met a native who liked messing with their traditional chowder. Nice to meet you.

                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                  The OP didn't ask whether it would be traditional, but whether it would be New
                                  England Clam Chowder. If it's made in New England by a New England chef and sold in a New England restaurant and eaten by New England customers, I figure that is a New England Clam Chowder.

                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    No, the OP asked if it was sacrilege. And an additional request for "any thoughts on one way or the other". My response is that, IMHO, it IS sacrilege to make NE clam chowder with corn, or even sub that veg for the potatoes. Or at least it is to make a soup, with corn instead of or in addition to the potatoes, and say its NE clam chowder. No, at that point, it is simply, a chowder.

                                    And if I am in San Francisco, and making a NE clam chowder, and serving it to my neighbors, it is STILL a NE clam chowder.

                                2. re: escondido123

                                  rhode island has its own local chowder, which is clear, and made with quahogs.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Quahogs are clams, so it's still clam chowder. And in my 25 years in RI I was never served clear chowder, always creamy.

                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        Sorry, fellow RIer, but hotoynoodle is correct. Our chowder isn't clear since we add a little secret ingredient that gives it body, but technically, RI chowder is the clear kind, no tomatoes, no milk, no cream. If it was creamy, it was NE chowder, not RI chowder. Did you ever go to James of Gallilee on Narragansett Sound? They had the clear chowder & clam cakes that we had to stop at every summer on our way home to CT after spending time with the fam up in northern RI. Love that place, can still see it & taste it like it was yesterday. My dad always insisted on an extra order of clam cakes so he could nibble on them on the way home. And whatever he didn't finish, he'd eat at breakfast the next day! Funniest thing about it was that my Dad is neither from RI or NE but he loved those clam cakes!!

                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                          Hi Dirty, I didn't say that clear chowder didn't exist. I never had it served to me in 25 years and I ate a lot of chowder. Just different haunts I guess...my husband's family lives near Galilee but we never ate there outside of their home.

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            Ok, gotcha. Wasn't sure that's what you meant. And I got the name wrong, it's been quite a few years since I've been and had a sneaking feeling that James wasn't the right name, it's George's.

                                            Hey though, you can't complain if you got to eat at your husband's family's place in Galilee. Great spot. We always found it such a huge treat since my Mom's family lived in Northern RI by the CT border.

                            2. Who cares what other people think? If you like it, do it. It will be delicious. It won't be official or authentic, but that's irrelevant. My MIL, from Marblehead, doesn't even accept the existence of Manhattan Clam Chowder: it's "Tomato Soup with Clams." It "cahn't pawssibly be a chowdah" if it's not the traditional NE style. She once sat staring at her chowder for twenty minutes in a restaurant because they failed to sprinkle the Paprika on the top and she was waiting for them to come out with some.

                              Potatoes are useless flavorless starch anyway. The only point of a baked potato is to serve as a vehicle for butter, sour cream, bacon and chives. At least the corn will provide some flavor and texture. Go for it and don't listen to any naysayers.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: acgold7

                                "Potatoes are useless flavorless starch anyway. The only point of a baked potato is to serve as a vehicle for butter, sour cream, bacon and chives."

                                I'm guessing you must microwave your "baked" potatoes. A properly baked potato can be rich in flavor by itself - perhaps with a touch of salt & pepper / NOT to be overwhelmed with mounds of butter (never did understand using margarine which ruins any potato) .

                                I do, however, like your term "tomato soup with clams" for Manhattan "chowder" (another item I'll never understand).

                                1. re: Clams047

                                  I have never microwaved a potato. But thanks for the baseless assumption. Potatoes are completely useless, nutritionally and calorically. As a source of cheap easy empty calories when you expended fifteen thousand calories a day plowing your fields with a single ox, they came in handy, but today they are poison.

                                  And to sneer at Manhattan chowder means you don't understand the definition of the word "chowder." It clearly qualifies. Chowder has nothing to do with dairy of any kind and does not preclude the use of tomatoes or require the use of spuds.

                                  1. re: acgold7

                                    "but today they are poison" Ridiculous

                                    1. re: acgold7

                                      Potato is good source of Vitamin C, B6 and Potassium. And if you eat the skin decent roughage.

                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        I do love the skins, especially if they are crispy. But the insides have only trace amount of any nutrients, at best. And not much flavor either.

                                        Where the hell is mcf when I need her?

                                        1. re: acgold7

                                          Oh, I'll jump in. Potatoes are just another sugar delivery device. They're just not sweet.

                                      2. re: acgold7

                                        According to the USDA, a medium russet, baked with skin, contains:
                                        - 35% rda vitamin c
                                        - 10% rda iron
                                        - 4% rda calcium
                                        - 4 g fibre
                                        - 5 g protein
                                        - 37 g total carbohydrates

                                        While there are certainly more nutrient dense foods available, it is factually incorrect to call potatoes "nutritionally useless"

                                        1. re: CanadaGirl

                                          Right, but as I specified, if you only eat the inside and leave the skin (as many/most people do if you observe what's left on the plates at restaurants), those numbers, except for the carb count, drop to almost zero.

                                    2. re: acgold7

                                      "Potatoes are useless flavorless starch anyway"

                                      WRONG about ^^^that^^^ statements to this CH'er.
                                      long cooked, soaked and bathed in ultra flavor.....
                                      potatoes can be "morsels perfection" in a meal and the ingredient I most cherish and adore. their texture and mouth feel nevermind the flavor they impart:simply yummy.

                                    3. If you make it w/ corn it will be something, but it will not be New England Clam Chowder; not in the classical sense.

                                      1. If it tastes Good.........Do it!.at least once. No, not "traditional" (born and raised on Cape Cod), but lots of folks even on the Cape experiment a bit......if you ever had "traditional" chowder with an addition of some cooked Linguica, you're in for a treat

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. Anyone have an approximation of the No Name (Boston restaurant) fish chowder? That was my favorite ocean based chowder of any kind. Thick goopy clam chowder just ain't for me.

                                          Here is one version of it. http://www.squidoo.com/eastcoastchowd...
                                          The ingredients would vary at the No Name. What is harder to get to is their thin milky broth. I would always add lots of black pepper to their blazing hot chowder, then I would go to town.

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: zzDan

                                            I grew up in Mass, and my mother is from Portsmouth, NH. We had clam chowder as a leftover meal after eating steamers and lobster on Saturday nights when we went to my grandparents' house in Portsmouth. There was no flour involved in her clam chowder, just clam broth from the night before and half and half. No corn, just potatoes and onions. Salt pork was used diced to render the fat in which to cook the onions.

                                            The other leftover meals we had were lobster salad sandwiches and lobster Newburg. Those were the days!

                                            1. re: pcdarnell

                                              Your Mom's recipe sounds a lot like my Family's recipe. Just potatoes, onions & clams, and rendered salt pork. Never used flour or the potatoes to thicken it. The potatoes were in it for themselves, not as thickeners.

                                            2. re: zzDan

                                              No Name's chowder is a lot like RI clam chowder, IIRC. No cream, milk or tomato, just fish broth. Simple & delicious.

                                              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                There is thin milk in the broth for No Name fish chowder. A thin broth. The opposite of what most people want in a NE clam chowder. Which is thick and creamy with clams.

                                                1. re: zzDan

                                                  Hmmmm, guess I'm stretching my memory a bit, but really don't recall any milk in the fish chowder, but I'll take your word for it.

                                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                    I no longer live near the No Name but in my life I have eaten there about 100 times. Many times a quickie lunch was a bowl of their fish chowder and some of their fantastic cole slaw. The eatery takes a pounding on Yelp these days. Maybe it was better when I lived in NE

                                                  2. re: zzDan

                                                    NE clam chowder, despite popular belief outside of the coast, is always a thin broth. Lots of clams, no thickener, except for potatoes, and milk. I prefer it simmered a long time to thicken slightly from the potato starch, but it is very thin in many places, especially those with too much business in the summer.

                                                    1. re: hilltowner

                                                      Then my preference is the classic NE chowder you mention. Some broth thickening done by the potatoes and a bit of milk. No cream. Of course the first google hit for "NE clam chowder food TV" is a recipe with heavy cream


                                                      1. re: zzDan

                                                        why would you use foodtv as the definitive authority on ne clam chowder? or anything really?

                                              2. Absolutely. Corn's flavor is too strong and will mask the flavor of the clams and clam juice. If you want a chowder that tastes like corn, leave out the clams and make corn chowder.

                                                1. Corn belongs in corn chowder, not new England clam chowder. There is no debate.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                    Obviously there's been quite a bit of debate. A healthy thing.

                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                      You can make your clam chowder however you like, this was a (semi) free country last I looked. But don't sell it as NE chowder, if that's not what you made, that's all.

                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                        This is why the OP used the word 'sacrilege' - some people are very dogmatic about what can be called NE clam chowder. :)

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          Exactly, and yes, we are quite a dogmatic group, and damn proud of our chowder.

                                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                            And I'm going to bet a bunch of folks who say they're making traditional NE clam chowder use bacon instead of salt pork imparting a smoky flavor to the dish that never was there in the original.

                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                              Depending on how far back you trace the soup and name, potatoes weren't there either.

                                                              Based on an earlier thread, I'd say opinions about what is in NE clam chowder are stronger among Maine fisherfolk (or people who claim to know them), than among Boston chefs. The bone of contention was whether any flour could be used as a thickener, or whether all thickening had to come from potatoes.

                                                              Sweet corn isn't going to do much for thickening, providing instead a texture contrast (a texture unlike either clams or potatoes) and some sweetness.

                                                              A curious thing is that some Maine neighbors did add corn to another traditional potato dish. I'm talking about pate chinois, cottage pie or hachis Parmentier with a corn layer. Use of potatoes in cottage pie is as old as their use in chowder, possibly even older.

                                                    2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                      I agree that corn chowder has its own place. You don't throw corn into a clam chowder.

                                                    3. Sorry, but when the subject if chowder there is no room for being an ideologue.

                                                      This is not a recipe oriented food, it is a cook=what-you've-got oriented food..

                                                      Chowder is a soup or stew using what is available. It may or may not include tomato, it may or may not be thick, it may or may not include corn, it may or may not use corn starch, it may or may not include butter.. Personally I wouldn't make it with corn, but variation in preparation is the core of what makes chowder chowder and I wouldn't turn it down or criticize the cook who opted to include corn.

                                                      You want some recipe-defined soup, go have that too. But don't tell me any chowder has to follow any rules.

                                                      As a native New Englander, I like most chowder I have encountered. All different, mostly all good. And a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder isn't something I'd turn down due to some sort of territorial imperative.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Henning_Hornblower

                                                        Well said Henning. I went online and checked out descriptions of NE Clam Chowder, and was surprised to see a mention of a RI Chowder that used milk and tomato...never saw that when I lived there. I think an interesting variation would be to use some corn cream (made by processing the fresh corn and then straining off the "cream) which would add a wonderful velvety texture to the chowder and a nice corny note.

                                                      2. http://www.barharborfoods.com/chowder...
                                                        Authentic Chowders from Bar Harbor Foods

                                                        New England Clam Chowder
                                                        Ingredients: Fresh Clams, Potatoes, Water, Wheat Flour, Butter, Tapioca Starch, Onions, Salt & Spices.

                                                        New England Style
                                                        Clam Corn Chowder
                                                        Ingredients: Potatoes, Water, Clams, Corn, Wheat Flour, Butter (Milk, Salt), Native Tapioca Starch, Onions, Sea Salt and Proprietary Spices.

                                                        I think that settles the name issue - no corn in NE Clam Chowder, but there is corn in NE style Clam Corn Chowder.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            Good answer, but really, NEITHER should have that tapioca starch in there. Thick and gloppy is not real NE chowder. As far as corn...if you like it in there, put it in. The clam chowder police will not come after you. Same with the thickeners...not authentic, but if you like it that way, go for it.

                                                            1. re: The Professor

                                                              And what the heck is native tapioca starch?

                                                              Back in the last century, when my grandmother would make her exquisite clam chowder (saving every drop of clam juice and thickening with common crackers), she would give my mother a portion and caution her not to curdle it when she reheated it. That would make my mother's blood boil, and she would invariably curdle the chowder when reheating it. It still tasted good, although it could have been prettier.

                                                              1. re: The Professor

                                                                In canned preparations you can't just depend on the thickening properties of dairy and potato. A canned item is cooked several times, before the can, in the can, and at home. So it's not unexpected that they would use different starches and stabilizers than a home cook who can add cream at the last moment.

                                                                Have you, or anyone else, tried this brand of chowder?

                                                            2. Thank you everyone. I have NEVER gotten this many replies from a post so quickly. Great stuff.

                                                              1. I just asked my husband, a native Rhode Islander, what he considers NE Clam Chowder. "Clams, bacon or salt pork, fish stock, cream/milk, salt and pepper." But what about potatoes? I asked. "Well, then you're making soup," he said. Just another report on what a New Englander thinks is a Clam Chowder.