Konky's Creative Kitchen
Updated: Feb 28, 2022
Nothing says "New England" like chowder does! But in New England we say chowdah". A hearty and lusciously creamy pot of chowder is one of those that gets love year round. Whether it is fish, clam, or a mixture of seafood, you get the best feeling of what New England comfort food is like all in a mug, a cup, a bowl, or a bread boule. This recipe is based on the authentic principles of what the chowder base was made with.
Chowder was originally created with fish or shellfish, salt pork, potatoes, onions, and milk. There was never any roux, slurry, stock, or bacon in the original. Thanks to the use of cream and potatoes, you can still produce a velvety chowder that is not too thin and never thick at all. Later when fish/clam/seafood stock was added, it was definitely a way to fit this into a budget and not make your doctors nervous (probably!) The additions of a roux or slurry are really used more by most restaurants to help make a standing chowder more stable during service. Unfortunately, it becomes way too thick through the heating process of keeping it up to temperature and then you will have a cook adding water or more cream to the base, to rehydrate it. Bacon is also another ingredient that was not originally created in chowder's birth. But, in a pinch when you don't have salt pork on hand or it is just too flipping expensive, it will work.
4lb Seafood, fresh (your favorite or a mixture of) 1 1/2 QT Cream (can use Half-n-Half or a mixture of both*) 1 1/4 QT Seafood stock (can use vegetable stock) 4oz Butter, salted 1/4 C Olive oil 1 1/2 C Potato, finely diced 1 C Celery, finely diced 1 C Onion, finely diced 3-4 TB Garlic, finely minced 4oz Salt Pork, finely minced (Bacon or Prosciutto is a good substitute) 3 TB Thyme, dried 1 1/2 TB White pepper (Black pepper works also) 1.) Prep your vegetables and salt pork. Be mindful of keeping everything except the potatoes, the same size when finely dicing. This will make a big difference when it comes time to cooking everything. Mince your garlic but set this aside in a small dish.
2.) Have your seafood set up on the side. Make sure your stock and cream are also at-the-ready. By having your mise en place, this will help make for a smooth process in cooking your chowder to completion.
3.) Depending on your heat source, be mindful that you will be needing to mix regularly. Use medium/medium-high heat, and add your butter and olive oil to the pot. Add your thyme and white pepper and mix well for a few minutes. This will not only rehydrate the thyme but, this helps to balance the flavors out also. Add your vegetables and salt pork to the pot. This may take about five minutes to get this partially cooked. Again, continue to stir this as we do not want to develop any fond on the bottom of the pot. Towards the end of cooking your vegetables and salt pork, add your garlic and mix well. In another couple of minutes, this will be ready for the next steps.
4.) Add your seafood stock next. Bring up to temperature gently as you do not want to boil this.
5.) Staging the seafood - start by adding the fish to the pot and gently stir for three to five minutes. The fish should be gently cooking but still be raw in the middle. Add the scallops next and gently stir for another three or so minutes. You will want to take one scallop out to test for a "jelly-like" feel to the middle. This will be the marker to add the rest of the seafood that cooks the fastest, which would be squid and clam strips. Pay close attention that this does not boil. Good time/temperature control is very important when working with dairy-based soups.
6.) To bring this together using a whisk, gently whisk the chowder. The key here is the heat will help thicken the cream and the starch from the potatoes to give you a creamy base. This is not meant to create a thick chowder. This is a very traditional approach. Time will vary depending on heat source used for cooking. Dip a large tablespoon into the chowder and run your finger along the back side to determine if the chowder is no longer runny.
*OPTION: If you are aiming for thick, you will want to do a slurry at this point (reserve approximately 4oz cream or Half-n-Half with 1/4 C cornstarch, mixed well until smooth) and gently pour in your slurry while continuously mixing in Step 6.
Serve with oyster crackers or saltines. This can be served in a bread boule, crocks or regular bowls. As we say in New England - "dont fahget the beeyah!" for those who are of legal age! LOL!
For great reading material on the history of chowder, please refer to the resources and links in the video.
My husband loves extra seafood on his chowder. I would be willing to bet you would know which photo was my husband's dinner! LOL!