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Chris Amirault

Chowdah/Chowder--Cook-Off 20

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Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index.

For our twentieth Cook-Off, we're making chowdah. However, most of the world is sadly located outside of New England, and thus erroneously spells and pronounces the dish chowder. In a magnanimous gesture to promote national, even global, harmony, I'll follow suit. (In this post.)

Of course, spellings and pronunciations are just the tip of the contentious iceberg, friend. Take a good working definition of the dish. I'd like to say that chowder is a milk-based soup -- but that'd be wrong (think manhattan or red clam chowder). I'd like to say that chowder must include fish or shellfish -- but that'd be wrong, too (think corn chowder). And how about this fascinating disagreement: though many would argue it's a definitively American dish, is it east coast or west coast? Here's wikipedia on chowder:

Chowder is any of a variety of soups, enriched with salt pork fatback and thickened with flour, or more traditionally with crushed ship biscuit or saltine crackers, and milk. To some Americans, it means clam chowder, made with cream or milk in most places, or with tomato as "Manhattan clam chowder." Corn chowder is a thick soup filled with whole corn (maize) kernels. Chowder is often commonly associated with New England cuisine.

However, the contentious Australians at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Center offer this brief definition:

Creamy soup originating from the west coast of the USA, usually made with corn, potato and shell fish.

I of course believe that wikipedia is certainly right. But who's to say? Perhaps chowder exists precisely to provoke these tiffs. Look, for example, at this snit between me, menton1, and a few others over the definition of Providence chowder. Grown men, I'm telling you, nearly coming to blows over the subject.

Surely we can provoke that sort of heated debate here in the cook-off -- some real cassoulet- or gumbo-worthy arguments. Check out our own Sara Moulton's RecipeGullet recipe for oven baked chowder, lovebenton0's hearty scallop chowder, or Chef Matt's "Fat Guy" lobster chowder. And while there are eGS cooking threads here and here , but, honestly, there's not much around here. Yet.

So get cookin', you chowdaheads!

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Holyshit, I didn't make anything for the last Cook-Off yet, and the one before that I did but didn't get it posted. Oh well, thank goodness, Cook-Offs have no expiration dates.

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Sounds interesting. I have this little book called "Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens", which has recipes for fish, scallop, corn and lobster chowders, so I will give one of these a go.

A question, what exactly is salt pork (cut, cure, ration of fat to lean etc) and what would be a good substitute?

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Sounds interesting. I have this little book called "Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens", which has recipes for fish, scallop, corn and lobster chowders, so I will give one of these a go.

Oh my god...I thought I was the only person in the world who had that cookbook!

A question, what exactly is salt pork (cut, cure, ration of fat to lean etc) and what would be a good substitute?

I have no idea about your salt pork questions other than to offer up that you generally need to pour boiling water over it and then soak for a while to get some of the salt out.

A good substitute is bacon.

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A question, what exactly is salt pork (cut, cure, ration of fat to lean etc) and what would be a good substitute?

I have no idea about your salt pork questions other than to offer up that you generally need to pour boiling water over it and then soak for a while to get some of the salt out.

A good substitute is bacon.

Salt pork is not smoked and has a higher proportion of fat to lean than bacon typcially does. Below is a description but I don't know what the equivalent name is in Great Britain if it is still sold there. (I would have thought that this orginated in Great Britain as in the US it dates back well into the earlier colonial times.)

link

salt pork

Definition: So named because it is salt-cured, this is a layer of fat (usually with some streaks of lean) that is cut from the pig's belly and sides. Salt pork is often confused with fatback, which is unsalted. It varies in degree of saltiness and often must be blanched to extract excess salt before being used. It's similar to bacon but much fattier and unsmoked. Salt pork can be refrigerated tightly wrapped for up to a month. It's used primarily as a flavoring and is an important ingredient in many dishes throughout New England and the South


Edited by ludja (log)

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Another good cookbook is the New England Clam Shack Cookbook by Brooke Dojny, who had a eG Forums Q&A in 2003.

<iframe src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=egulletcom-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1580174736&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000ff&bc1=000000&bg1=ffffff&f=ifr" style="width:120px;height:240px;" scrolling="no" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0"></iframe>

"Chowder" search within the New England Clamshack Cookbook (Click on the search results on the first and second pages for full recipes -- note that you will need to be signed in to Amazon to see the content.) See result #9 on page 1 for the basic New England clam chowder recipe, result #11 for a clear chowder, Result #15 for "Portsmouth" seafood chowder, result #49 for a Red Chowder, and result #60 for Corn Chowder.

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Creamy soup originating from the west coast of the USA, usually made with corn, potato and shell fish.

I think someone at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Center is missing a few shrimp off their barbie.

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I suppose living in Iowa I am going to have to pay homage to the state by making corn chowder. A little early in the season to find good Iowa sweet corn though. Hrm.. I wonder if Devotay has any ideas where I can get some. We'll have to see.

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I suppose living in Iowa I am going to have to pay homage to the state by making corn chowder. A little early in the season to find good Iowa sweet corn though. Hrm.. I wonder if Devotay has any ideas where I can get some. We'll have to see.

Won't help you this year, but the key is to remember yourself being at this impasse when the sweet corn is at the height this coming summer. Then buy a bushel full of ears, strip the kernels, pack into quart bags and hide it in the freezer until next winter and then bump this thread back to the top.

Of course, I'm not the best at doing as I say, because I don't have any corn left from last summer.

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I suppose living in Iowa I am going to have to pay homage to the state by making corn chowder. A little early in the season to find good Iowa sweet corn though. Hrm.. I wonder if Devotay has any ideas where I can get some. We'll have to see.

At this point in the year, you are better off using frozen corn. It works just fine, although there is something about stripping the corn off the cob and using the cobs as a base...

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I suppose living in Iowa I am going to have to pay homage to the state by making corn chowder. A little early in the season to find good Iowa sweet corn though. Hrm.. I wonder if Devotay has any ideas where I can get some. We'll have to see.

For those without accesss to good fresh shellfish or corn right now, there are also old-fashioned New England recipes for a chicken chowder. It has the traditional chowder ingredients of potatoes, salt pork and milk.

Here's a basic approach:

Slowly cook up some cubed salt pork to release the fat. The cubes can be left or the crackings can be removed to add back in later as a garnish. Add in some sliced onions and saute over low heat until they are translucent but not browned. Add water, a bay leaf, some minced celery leaves and chicken pieces on the bone or "a nice plump fowl" and poach at a slow simmer until cooked. Retreive chicken from the broth, remove the skin and bones and tear into med-large pieces. (Chill broth to partially defat if you like).

Add chicken back to broth, add in diced potatoes and cook untl the latter are tender. Heat a quart of milk. Make a thin paste with 2 Tbs flour and some water, whisk to make sure it's smooth and add to the milk. Bring back just to the boil and add milk mixture to the chicken broth. Cook all until slightly thickened. Serve with a pat of butter on top and sprnkle with cracklings if you reserved them.

I've not made this, but both recipes say it is as good on the 2nd day as the first. I'm thinking it might be nice to add some carrots or sub parsnips for the potatoes. Thyme might be another nice flavoring.

Maybe a bit *too* old-fashioned for me, but one of my books has an old recipe for an 'egg chowder' in which hard-boiled eggs are subbed for fresh clams and the whole is cooked in chicken stock instead of clam broth.

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For those without accesss to good fresh shellfish or corn right now, there are also old-fashioned New England recipes for a chicken chowder.  It has the traditional chowder ingredients of potatoes, salt pork and milk.

...

The March 2006 issue of Food & Wine has a recipe for Chicken-and-Garlic Chowder. It does not, however, have either potatoes or salt pork and uses pre-cut butternut squash, purchased BBQ chicken, and purchased sofrito. Still, it looks interesting as 5 cloves of garlic are poached in milk and then pureed and added to the soup at the end.

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For those without accesss to good fresh shellfish or corn right now, there are also old-fashioned New England recipes for a chicken chowder.  It has the traditional chowder ingredients of potatoes, salt pork and milk.

...

The March 2006 issue of Food & Wine has a recipe for Chicken-and-Garlic Chowder. It does not, however, have either potatoes or salt pork and uses pre-cut butternut squash, purchased BBQ chicken, and purchased sofrito. Still, it looks interesting as 5 cloves of garlic are poached in milk and then pureed and added to the soup at the end.

Hmmm... maybe the squash is supposed to be an alternative for potatoes?

I've been thinking of an idea for another cook-off (is this the right place to suggest it?). I'll likely spend Easter with some non-foodies who like their green beans casserole and gelatin salads. Considering the discussion about green bean casserole and gelatin dishes, and the fact that Easter and Passover are approaching and therefore many of us will likely spend time with less food-friendly folk, how about a cook-off for dishes like these that make the best of our own skills while honoring our loved ones' desires?

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I thought we would get this party started by casting some aspersions as to what is and isn't a chowder by creating a new chowder, borrowing from two distinctly American culinary cultures, New England and New Orleans.

I present to you Oysters Rockefeller Chowder. Rachel will post a more exact recipe shortly.

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Start by sauteeing some chopped up salt pork or bacon. We used bacon.

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In your mini prep or food processor, finely chop up onion, celery, scallion, and a clove or two of garlic.

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Clam Juice is essential for that chowdery taste.

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Get some oysters.

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Wash and spin up your spinach. You could use frozen spinach instead.

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1 and 1/2 cups of milk topped off with a large ladle of chicken stock.

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Hit the pot with some flour to create a light roux, and then saute the chopped vegetables with the bacon and flour.

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Chop up your spinach and get approx 2 tablespoons of anise-flavored liquor ready. Traditionally Oysters Rockefeller calls for Pernod or Herbsaint but I used Ouzo instead. You could also use Sambuca.

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Chuck the chopped spinach into the pot with and wilt it up.

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Hit it with the stock, milk, anise liquor and some clam juice to taste.

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Cook the soup until it thickens and sticks to the spoon, then take it off the heat and hit it with the oysters and stir 'dem up real good.

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Finished soup. Finish with a splash of heavy cream, season with salt, pepper, chervil (and/or some tarragon), and some grated fresh nutmeg to taste. Hit with some grated parmiggiano reggiano.

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Chowda in the Bowl.

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Extreme Chowda Closeup.

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Chris, what ever happened to Hatteras clam chowder?

Down in Carolina country thats the popular one. It's made with a clear broth instead of tomatoes or cream.

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Sounds interesting. I have this little book called "Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens", which has recipes for fish, scallop, corn and lobster chowders, so I will give one of these a go.

Oh my god...I thought I was the only person in the world who had that cookbook!

A question, what exactly is salt pork (cut, cure, ration of fat to lean etc) and what would be a good substitute?

I also own this cookbook! Salted fatback can be used as a substitute for salt pork (desalted by boiling for a few minutes). I think salt pork comes from the belly, and tends to be fatter and saltier than bacon or pancetta, which is why I used the salted fatback (bacon is not usually salty enough).

I think I will make a salt cod chowder tomorrow....

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Reading the dispute on RI clam chowder, if they do have a clear chowder, it's more popular than most discussing it there think. Everyone makes it sound like its losing a battle with cream and tomato, when in the south it's taking over.

Just to add, March 19th comming up CIA is holding a chowder cook off, and even though I doubt I will be entering I'll be sure to take pictures and notes to post for everyone later.


Edited by chiantiglace (log)

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I thought we would get this party started by casting some aspersions as to what is and isn't a chowder by creating a new chowder, borrowing  from two distinctly American culinary cultures, New England and New Orleans.

I present to you Oysters Rockefeller Chowder. Rachel will post a more exact recipe shortly.

That looks amazing, Jason.

Here's my much less chowderish chowder:

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I adapted the recipe in Food & Wine for Chicken-with-Garlic Chowder using potatoes instead of squash and throwing in some bacon bits. It was a delicious soup but, except for the recipe title, did not strike me as a chowder.

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and I am determined to prepare a kosher chowder :wink: ... probably using salmon (in place of clams or oysters) ... now must find something to replace the fatback ... and not schmaltz, I assume! :shock:

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Turkey bacon or smoked turkey leg? Were you going for tomato or creamy?

Creamy might be tastier with the salmon but the smoked turkey shreds might overwhelm the delicate taste of the salmon ... oy, it's always something, I know ... :laugh:

possible option but with, you know, real heavy cream! :rolleyes: and, since it is me, real butter ...

and then there is Smoked salmon chowder which looks quite delightful ... :hmmm: and the bacon fat is almost negligible really in this one ...

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Melissa, instead of salmon I would go for a heartier fish, like haddock. Salmon would just break up in the soup.

And uh.. turkey bacon would still negate the kosherness if its a dairy chowder. Perhaps to add the smokiness I might put in a small amount of smoked fish to add that taste to the blander white fish.

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Perfect timing for this cookoff! I just bought a Le Creuset soup pot last weekend and have been looking for recipes to experiment with it (it's my first piece of LC). Being a chowdah novice, Sara Moulton's recipe looked like a good start.

So here's all the ingredients chopped and ready to go...

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Into the soup pot goes one layer of potatoes, celery, onions, canadian bacon, salt, pepper, and thyme...

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Second layer, then poured the broth heated with white wine over all, and dabbed with butter...

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Into the oven for 30 minutes....

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After 30 minutes, add the scrod... (I also added a little more chicken broth to cover the veggies)...

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After another 30 minutes, remove from oven...

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Then pour the heated half-and-half over the fish...

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And finally, time for dinner...

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Being a chowdah novice, this was some good stuff. I don't know how it compares to the authentic recipes, but for a Texan without access to the original, it was definitely impressive. I was expecting a richer soup base, but with only 1/2 cup of the half-and-half, it was just right.

Any advice on changes based on the pictures?


Edited by nacho (log)

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Okay, we were just joking around with the Rockefeller Chowder. It was only lunch.

The main event went thusly:

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Any questions?

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