Chowders to Take the Chill Away

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

I’m sick as a dog right now and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. But I do feel like eating. I wish someone would bring me some homemade soup, something hearty like chowder. It’s just the thing to take the chills away.

creamy fish chowderCreamy Fish Chowder; Image: ifood.tv

Chowders have a long history in North America, though early recipes describe a stew layered with fish, biscuits, and other ingredients. According to Jasper White, author of 50 Chowders, this is the earliest published recipe, printed by the Boston Evening Post in 1751:

First lay some Onions to keep the Pork from burning
Because in Chouder there can be not turning;
Then lay some Pork in slices very thing,
Thus you in Chouder always must begin.
Next lay some Fish cut crossways very nice
Then season well with Pepper, Salt, and Spice;
Parsley, Sweet-Marjoram, Savory, and Thyme,
Then Biscuit next which must be soak’d some Time.
Thus your Foundation laid, you will be able
To raise a Chouder, high as Tower of Babel;
For by repeating o’er the Same again,
You may make a Chouder for a thousand men.
Last a Bottle of Claret, with Water eno; to smother ‘em,
You’ll have a Mess which some call Omnium gather ‘em
.

clam chowderClam Chowder; Image: Food Network

While it certainly is poetic, I don’t think it sounds as delicious as the clam chowder for which Boston is now famous. This is what I think of when I hear the term “chowder” but it can refer to any chunky soup thickened with milk or cream.

Manhattan Clam ChowderManhattan Clam Chowder, Image: Simply Recipes

The only exception is the anomaly that is Manhattan clam chowder, which has a tomato-based broth. Yummy but not really chowder in my book.

Smokey Corn ChowderSmoky Corn Chowder with Shrimp; Image: Bev Cooks

Another popular chowder features corn. I think this is best in the summer with fresh kernels straight from the cob but frozen corn can be substituted in winter. It makes a great vegetarian soup but the mild flavour also pairs well with chicken or shrimp for a satisfying main course.

three onion chowderThree Onion Chowder with Parsleyed Oyster Crackers; Image: thirschfeld via Food 52

Potatoes are added to most chowders and I have seen some recipes that make this the main ingredient. However, these versions can be a little bland. I prefer thirschfeld’s recipe which adds three types of onions as a flavour boost. And I love the idea of dressing up oyster crackers, which are a traditional chowder-topper, with parsley or other herbs.

cheesey vegetable chowderCheesy Vegetable Chowder; Image: Lulu the Baker

The great thing about chowder is that the mild, creamy base suits just about any vegetable, so it is a great way to use up leftovers. And they don’t need to simmer for hours to develop their flavour, so you can whip up a pot for a sick friend in under an hour (hint, hint)!

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