In the little State of Rhode Island you can find three types of clam chowder: white clam chowder, red clam chowder, and clear clam chowder. Native Rhode Islanders and purists favor a clear, thin broth chowder. Rhode Islanders and tourists alike also enjoy the creamy, white chowder also served in Boston and on Cape Cod. Finally you’ll also find the tomato-based red chowder. All three RI chowder varieties share two common ingredients: Quahogs and salt pork. Quohogs are the large clams, chopped and featured in the chowder. Why salt pork? Salt pork gives chowder some flavor and helps create the broth. It also can keep for months, especially on the sailing ships of the 18th century!
Is Rhode Island’s red chowder the same as Manhattan clam chowder (also called New York chowder or Fullton Market chowder)? No way! Rhode Islanders make their own version of. Unlike the Manhattan clam chowder recipe, the Rhode Island chowder contains no vegatables and uses a tomato base, not tomato chunks.
Charlie asked Ray Testa, a long time Rhode Islander and author of Rhode Island Favorites: Back Home Recipes, for his favorite chowder recipe. Below you will find the chowder recipe served for decades at the Shore Dinner Hall at the Rocky Point Amusement Park*, located on Narragansett Bay. The hall could seat a 1000 people and was advertised as the largest shore dinner hall in the world. Although the park and the hall are no more ( closed in 1996 and demolished in 2007), the food from the Shore Dinner Hall lives on.
Rocky Point Clam Chowder
1/2 lb. Salt Pork (finely diced)
1 lb. Onions (chopped)
1 lb. Potatoes (diced)
2 cups Tomato Puree
1-1/2 qts. Quahogs (chopped)
1 Tbsp. Paprika
Water as needed
1 gal. Clam Juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
Oyster or Saltine Crackers (broken)
In a large kettle, heat the salt pork until the fat melts. Add the onions. Cook over medium heat until very soft. Add the clam juice, potatoes, seasonings, tomato puree and a little water. Simmer until the potatoes are soft, then add the quahogs. Heat and taste for seasoning. Add water if needed. Crush some saltine crackers and stir them into the chowder to thicken it further, near the end of the cooking. Makes about 15 servings.
*The Rocky Point Amusement Park was a popular landmark on the Narragansett Bay side of Warwick, Rhode Island. Rocky Point closed in 1995.To learn more about Rhode Island’s famous seaside playground visit Joe Nisil’s excelent resource and photo history page.