|Today's Lesson: Chowder
||[Oct. 17th, 2007|08:23 am]
Dear Pyllgrum has provoked the following lecture, which is pieced together from many sober, not so sober and fairly besotted restaurant table discussions. I do come from a family, and a region, that will fight to the death over what exactly constitutes chowder, when is it not chowder, and above all, what crackers are ALLOWED to touch a good chowder. |
Of course, if you know me, then you're prounoucing this correctly in your head, chowduh. If you hear me put an "r" into it, well, smack me and help me keep the mid-atlantic at bay.
Fish or seafood, stewed with vegetables in liquid. End of discussion. Soup, stew, main dish? Doesn't matter. Those people who piss and moan that one version is too thick, it's not authentic, or those who piss and moan that another version is too thin, it's damn near soup...well, they're just blowing regional smoke. How can corn chowder....well, it's not really chowder if it doesn't have fish in it, just as a burger made out of lamb or turkey or the thighs of small children isn't really a burger, but a meat patty...but why split hairs when you can eat them?
That being said -- Chowder is like BBQ -- every region thinks they invented it, are the only ones who know how to do it and everyone else's version is crap. Like religion, really, except at least with Gustatorial arguments, you get to eat something more interesting than stale wafers and jug wine.
Here's your short course: Clear is Rhode Island (although some of the best New England chowder I've had was in Rhode Island). Creamy is the rest of New England. Tomato is New York. (Not upstate New York...when you talk chowder, you're talking about Long Island/Manhattan. The rest of the state wouldn't know a littleneck from a Quahog.) Brown is Jamaica...the island, not the New York locality.
It's got to have fish of some kind, onions, and potatoes and some herbs for seasoning. Don't get fancy though, this is New England. Parsley is just fine.
I would insist on salt pork or bacon as your starter fat. I'm from New England, so of course it has cream or milk to finish. You can make it with any white fish, but I'll reveal where in New England I'm from by admitting that cod and haddock are my preference and Quahogs for the clams...although that could be fond memories of Quahogging or just because, like a true New Englander we like to make fun of outsiders who can't pronounce it. (See how much I love you: Co-Hog. And it's Kwin-Zee Market, not Kwin-See as in the Medical Examiner. There, now you can to to Boston and not shame yourself. Oh, and the subway there is the "T". And...sigh. You better just bring me along when you go.) Anyway, the fight over which clams are proper can go on for days...although truthfully, the whole POINT of chowder was something that was cheap and easy to prepare with ingredients that were typically on hand, so the PROPER fish or clam was whatever you came home with.
I'll eat the kind with tomatoes in it, but only if it's Portugese -- because that's New England. I'm not eating any of the other reds. That would be like cheering for the Yankees. Not gonna happen.
I'll eat the clear, but then I'll have to crush crackers in it to thicken it up. Common crackers, not Saltines. There's already salt in it, for crissakes.
Aw, see, now you've made me hungry.