by Eric Wharton
My Recipe Book, constantly being added to
A New England clam chowder, made as it should be, is a dish to preach about, to chant praises and sing hymns and burn incense before. To fight for. The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought for—or on—clam chowder; part of it at least, I am sure it was. It is as American as the Stars and Stripes, as patriotic as the national Anthem. It is "Yankee Doodle in a kettle."
— Joseph C. Lincoln, author
There are as many kinds of clam chowders as there are places where it is eaten—and it's eaten in a lot of different locales. Just working our way down the eastern seaboard there's Down East (Maine) Clam Chowder, Boston (New England) Clam Chowder, Rhode Island Clam Chowder, Manhattan Clam Chowder, Long Island Clam Chowder, New Jersey Clam Chowder, Hattaras Clam Chowder, Minorcan (St. Augustine, FL) Clam Chowder. All can trace their ancestry to the earliest and most popular variety of clam chowder, New England clam chowder.
This hearty soup was introduced to the region by French, Nova Scotian, or British settlers—becoming common in the 18th century. New Englanders use the term quahog, which derives from the Narragansett Indian name poquauhock. This was the native name for the clams whose shells were used as money. Quahogs replaced the fish in the fish-milk stews of coastal England and France to become New England chowder.
There are two basic kinds of clam chowder, with small varieties beyond that. The major difference is if the chowder is milk-based or tomato-based. The first recipe for the tomato-based variety, Manhattan clam chowder, known for its subsequently distinctive red coloring, was published in 1934.
People in Maine make it both ways based on their location. Folks on the east side of the Penobscot River prefer it made with tomatoes, those on the western side prefer it made with milk. The discussion of which was best got so heated that in 1939, the state legislature of Maine debated legislation that would outlaw the use of tomatoes in chowder, thereby essentially prohibiting the "Manhattan" form. The bill was never filed because a high-profile contest settled the issue—the tomatoes lost.
1 10-oz can chopped clams, undrained
1 12-oz can condensed milk
I large onion, diced
11/4 lb butter
11/2 cup flour
8 cups water
2 potatoes, diced 1/4-in thick
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp parsley
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
Sauté onions in butter. Make a roux by adding flour and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. Stir in milk and water. Add potatoes, clam juice, and spices. Heat to boiling and then simmer 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. Add clams and simmer for 15 more minutes.
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