Cooks with chowder curiosity will find a worthy cooking technique adapted from the French by many cultures.
Think of chowder as a thickened stew. Most often, that’s with milk or cream, but more often half and half these days. The original thickening was crushed biscuits, but soda crackers work well.
The fun comes in deciding the ingredients. Most chowders are seafood and vegetables. Clam chowder made with cream is the most popular, but there’s an exception to the dairy rule. New England clam chowder is made with cream. Manhattan clam chowder substitutes chopped tomato sauce for the cream. Other chowders include corn, white fish, potato and squash.
Chowder’s name comes from its cooking pot, the French chaudiere. In New England, it’s “chowda.” Fishermen in Newfoundland, who threw a selection of their catch into a pot and cooked it in cream, may have made the first chowder. Potato chunks were often added.
New England remains the chowder capital of America. Its popularity extends into Maritime Canada. The oddball is Southern Illinois Chowder, a thick, French-Indian stew. “Chowder time” there starts with the tomato crop and is served at social gatherings, which are called “chowders.”
Southern Illinois Chowder
o 1 gallon water
o 1 1⁄2 pounds stewing beef, cut in chunks
o 1 1⁄4 pounds boneless chicken, cut up
o 1 small head cabbage, chopped
o 3 large stalks celery, chopped
o 3 cups carrots, diced
o 1 large onion, chopped
o 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
o 2 quarts peeled and diced potatoes
o 2 1⁄2 cups fresh or frozen green beans, thawed
o 1 (15-ounce) can lima beans, drained
o 24 ounces tomato sauce
o 1 1⁄2 cups frozen corn, thawed
o 1⁄2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
o Salt and pepper to taste
Add beef to boiling water, cover and simmer for an hour. Add chicken and continue cooking another 1 1⁄2 hours, stirring frequently. Add cabbage, mushrooms, celery and carrots. Cook for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion, then the potatoes. Cook for 45 minutes. Add green beans. Cook another hour. Add lima beans, and cook a final 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Near the end of the time, add the tomato sauce, corn and pepper sauce and seasonings.
Makes 20 servings.
Note: Use for a slow boil. Be sure to stir often to prevent sticking. If shrimp and scallops are substituted for the beef, add in last 15 minutes.