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Archive for Wednesday, January 30, 2008

As super bowls come and go, chowder war rages on

January 30, 2008

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While fighting over soup doesn't involve smashmouth football, it does get pretty contentious, as the two Super Bowl cities go head to head over one  question: Who can claim the better namesake clam chowder, New England or Manhattan? Pictured is the Manhattan version.

While fighting over soup doesn't involve smashmouth football, it does get pretty contentious, as the two Super Bowl cities go head to head over one question: Who can claim the better namesake clam chowder, New England or Manhattan? Pictured is the Manhattan version.

The Super Bowl matchup between New England and New York has played itself out on dinner tables for years, with both sides claiming to have the best namesake chowder.

With its milk or cream, pork and potatoes, New England clam chowder is considered to be the national standard, dating back to at least the early 19th century, says cookbook author Brooke Dojny, whose books include "The New England Clam Shack Cookbook."

Clams were abundant there, as well as in what are now the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and became a base for a hearty soup, according to "The Oxford Companion to Food."

Different regions created different kind of chowder, featuring lobster or subtracting the potatoes, for example, but most were cream-based and included clams or fish.

The Oxford companion puts the origins of Manhattan clam chowder not in New York but in Rhode Island, where cooks added tomatoes. The account says there is no obvious reason why the "Manhattan" moniker came about.

Dojny says Manhattan-style chowder, with its tomatoes, garlic and celery, can overpower the clam taste. Those who prefer Manhattan-style may point out that there version is a little lighter and healthier - no dairy or pork here.

Unlike the football game, the ongoing chowder war is not going to produce a winner anytime soon.

"I think it's a matter of what you personally enjoy," says Cheryl Jamison, who wrote "American Home Cooking" with her husband, Bill. "You can make a wonderful chowder with a variety of ingredients."

Super Bowl showdown: battle of the clam chowders

Manhattan clam chowder

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large onions finely chopped (2 cups)

2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 cup)

3/4 pound boiling potatoes

28- to 32-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice, drained, chopped and juice reserved

2 garlic cloves, minced (or to taste)

48 small hard-shelled clams (less than 2 inches wide), shucked and coarsely chopped, liquor reserved

Three 8-ounce bottles clam juice combined with 3 cups water

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

1 bay leaf

Freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salt

In a 4- to 6-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Add potatoes, tomatoes and garlic to onions and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Strain reserved clam liquor through a fine-mesh sieve and add to pot, along with reserved tomato juice and clam juice mixture.

Add basil, thyme, bay leaf and pepper to taste and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, occasionally skimming off froth, until potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in clams and parsley and cook over medium heat just until clams are firm, 1 to 2 minutes.

Discard bay leaf and season to taste with salt

New England clam chowder

36 small hard-shelled clams (less than 2 inches wide), such as littlenecks, scrubbed well

1 1/2 cups cold water

2 medium boiling potatoes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 bacon slices, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup half-and-half

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a 4-quart saucepan, place the clams in water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and steam until clams open, 5 to 8 minutes. Check frequently after five minutes and transfer clams to a bowl as they open. Discard unopened clams. Reserve cooking liquid.

When clams cool, remove from shells and coarsely chop. Pour cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, leaving behind any grit.

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch dice.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in potatoes, reserved liquid and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir in clams, half-and-half and pepper to taste. Cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Do not boil. Stir in parsley.

Source: "The Gourmet Cookbook"

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