Chowder Wars: Pick your favorite Chowder!

by Charlie ~ September 14th, 2008. Filed under: Soups, Chowders and Stews | Print Print

Maine to the lazy shores of Maryland, Chowder is bubbling away just waiting for Charlie to stop in for some comfort in a bowl! But wait, is it clam, corn or Manhattan chowder that Charlie fancy’s?

Well, it’s a good thing history nixed the pickled pork! The first chowda’s, or chaudiere’s (as the French would say) date back to the 17th and 18th centuries that were communal stews for sailors and contained layers of pickled pork, salt cod, onions, ship biscuits, a glass of hot Madeira wine, some Indian pepper, lots of butter, some oysters and truffles.

New England, home of seafarers and settlers-a pretty resourceful bunch-were forced to make substitutions of those original ingredients so, out came the Madeira wine and truffles, and in went red wine and clams, and, later still, tomato ketchup or beer replaced the red wine.

From Boston to points north, chowder always begins with a good fish stock, the secret ingredient for any good chowder, and has evolved to include; clams, potatoes, onions and crispy bits of salt pork, and of course, milk or cream-ingredients New Englanders will defend to the end.

What about the origins of Tomato-based-Manhattan chowder? Rhode Islanders first started the controversial addition of chopped tomatoes to their chowder, a practice that brought down unrelenting contempt from the tip of Cape Cod to Maine. For no discernable reason the dish came to be called €œManhattan Clam Chowder. Long Islanders believed their version needed tomatoes for flavor and were adamant about merging the garden and the sea. A steaming vegetable soup, Manhattan clam chowders are brothy, not creamy and sometimes begin with a chicken stock instead of fish stock.

Marylanders, wanting no part of the tomatoes versus clam’s controversy, added corn to their chowders. Roasted kernels, fresh off the cob, give this chowder a wonderful earthy flavor, perfect for the late summer evening feast.

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