Monday, September 26, 2011

Chowin' on Chowder - Pacific NW Style Clam Chowder

Evidently Autumn has arrived.  Gone are the 90 degree days, for the sun is hiding behind the rain clouds and I swear the temperature dropped into the 50's...  This all means one thing.  It's time for soup.   Not just any soup. It's time for chowin' down on some chowder.

So what exactly IS a chowder?  Well, the best I can come up with is the word calderia.... Which is Latin for "a place to warm things"  This is the root that spawned words like caldera, as in volcano, and the word "cauldron" (boil, boil, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble)   :)   In France, these handy soup cauldrons that hung from a hook over the hearth fire, were called "chaudiere".  Ah HA!  First connection... Now it get's good, cause there are a lot of fish soups/stews on the northern coast of France... So, let's hop the channel over to jolly olde England and you will find the old English word "jowter" meaning fish peddler.   Second connection... 

Now we all remember from our European history class, right?  Let's refresh.  You see, the English really loved to visit France; regularly, as a matter of fact, and usually with a fairly large army... Thus there was a lot of cross cultural interaction...  (I am assuming)  I am sure, at some point, a jowter was in Normandy and made his fish soup in a chaudiere and the rest is history...  Say it three times fast...

A jowter makes chowder in a chaudiere...  Evidently, the name stuck.

What traditionally makes chowder different from soup or stew is that the ingredients were originally layered with old biscuits or crackers, which were the thickening agent.  Granted, today most chowders are not made with layered ingredients of onions, lean pork, biscuits (sea biscuits or hardtack crackers) and fish covered in water and cooked until the bread breaks down and thickens the "chowder", most chowders simply contain flour and starch from the potatoes as thickeners ...  But though our method of preparation has changed over the years, the spirit of chowder's humble beginnings remains, as most chowders are served with copious quantities of crackers to be sprinkled on top or hidden underneath.

I am a "New England Style" person...  Not so big on the "Manhattan" version which made it's debut in the 1800's as the popularity of tomatoes increased.  But I get a little weird about tomatoes and seafood.  There is also Rhode Island Style, which is a clear broth style, similar to Delaware and Hatteras styles... Then there is the Minorcan style from Florida, which is a kicked up (datil chile laced) version of Manhattan.  Even though I am a big fan of New England style chowder which contains bacon, (awesome!) my favorite recipe is a Pacific NW affectation.  Bacon/salted pork sits on the sidelines, to be replaced by Butter and Smoked Salmon....   mmmmmm  Thus, you have the "Pacific NW Style" clam chowder.

Pacific NW Style Clam Chowder

3 TB Unsalted Butter
1/2 cup (2 oz) (56 g) Celery, fine chop
1 cup (3.5 oz) (100 g) Onion, fine chop
2 TB Shallot, minced
1 medium (9 oz) (255 g) New Potato, diced
3 TB AP Flour
a 6.5 oz (185 oz) can of Clams
2 oz (56 g) Smoked Silver Salmon, flaked
1 1/4 cup (10 oz) (295 ml) Whole Milk
1/4 cup (2 oz) (60 ml) Half and Half
2 TB Sour Cream
8 oz (235 ml) Clam Juice (in the bottle)
2 TB Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
Kosher Salt (If your smoked salmon is really salty, you won't need this)
Copious amounts of Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
Finely chopped Flat Leaf Parsley for serving
Crackers and Butter for serving.

In the bottom of a medium pot, melt the Butter.

When the foaming subsides, add the Celery, Onion, Shallot and Potatoes.... and sweat until the potatoes and celery are tender.

Sprinkle the vegetables with the Flour and cook until the flour smells slightly nutty. (about 5 minutes)

Drain the Clams and reserve the juice.

Add Clams, Smoked Salmon...

Then add both the bottled Clam Juice and the reserved Clam Juice.

Stir in the Milk too.

In a small bowl, whisk Half and Half with Sour Cream,

then add this to the pot as well.

Season with copious quantities of Black Pepper and simmer gently until slightly thickened. (about 15 minutes)

Place Crackers in the bottom of the serving bowls.

Ladle the chowder over the crackers (the crackers will further thicken the chowder) or serve with "Oyster Crackers" or Saltines on the side if you like your chowder a little more loose.

Hit it again with freshly ground black pepper...

Place a small pat of butter on top and sprinkle a small amount of chopped Flat Leaf Parsley.

Kick back and watch the rain fall while exuberantly consuming your bowl of liquid warmth.


1 comment:

Patti T. said...

Looks good enough to eat and I hate clams. I think you could make anything look good.