Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tasty Tuesday -- Chowdah


I should warn you I have strong opinions on chowdah (chowder to most of the world). Although I was born in Queens and lived there until I was 10, I was largely raised by my maternal grandmother, the real Alice Gaines. I was named after her, and I took her name as my pen name.

My grandmother was from Massachusetts, and she taught us New England ways. We also lived for a long time in Connecticut. Old time New Englanders look on all things New York with some suspicion. When we’d see someone driving erratically or too fast, we’d nod knowingly and comment, “New York driver.” Similarly, we don’t consider that clam and tomato soup chowdah or even chowder. Chowdah is white. It has milk in it. Period. End of discussion.

You’ll notice that my recipe has no thickening agent. Not all soup has to be thick. Frankly, I’d rather taste clams than flour. Besides, there’s only enough broth to cover the potatoes and clams. You won’t find five or six clam pieces floating in a sea of white. It’s a very hearty soup, even if you can’t stand a spoon in it.

Traditionally, chowdah contains salt pork and is cooked in layers in a big pot. My grandmother’s version used canned claims, making it very easy and quick to make. I’ve substituted bacon for the salt pork to make it even easier.

2 small cans (or one large) chopped clams
1/2 medium onion
1 medium potato
three slices of bacon (or one or two thick slices)
clam broth, fish broth, lobster broth, crab broth, or water
milk, cream, or half-and-half

Drain clams, reserving liquid. Slice the onion-half thinly. In a heavy pot cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and discard all but about 1 Tbs bacon fat. Add 1 Tbs butter to the fat, melt, and then add the onions and cook until translucent. Don't brown.

Peel and dice potato. Add potato to the onions and enough reserved clam liquid and/or broth just to cover. Cook just until potato is tender. Add clams and crumbled up bacon. Add "enough" milk or cream to make the chowdah white. Add another pat of butter and allow it to melt. Heat gently (don't boil) until it's the temperature you want. Check carefully for salt and pepper (clam broth is salty). Eat.

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1 comment:

  1. Note: When I posted this many days ago, I had no idea the East Coast would be suffering after a powerful storm. My thoughts and prayers are with the eastern part of our country. Including my sister, whose home is right on Long Island sound. I don't know when I'll hear from her. :(