The Chowder Bowl

5 Feb

So, the Giants won the Super Bowl.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

If you’re anything like me, you’re still trying to figure out how they even got into what the NFL wants you to think of as “The Big Game” in the first place.

Perhaps, as a New Yorker, I’ve come to expect our teams to be mostly mediocre. The Yankees, as much as I love them, seem to have lost the come-from-behind fire that made them so exciting to watch for so many years. The Mets are always claiming to have finally procured that last player they need to become the best team ever, and then nothing happens. And then there’s the Knicks. Oh sweet mercy, the Knicks! Have you ever seen such a spectacle? They’re like a goat rodeo masquerading as a professional sports team.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

I suppose I should admit right off the bat that I’m not a football fan.

That said, I was still aware that the New England Patriots were having a “magic season.” I knew that their quarterback was dating Giselle, I knew that they had the hubris to pre-print a book about their perfect year, I knew that they were virtually guaranteed to win. Yet I had no inkling that the team from our own backyard (also known as New Jersey) was even fair to middling this year.

And so, even though it is once again “TV free February,” Isaac and I granted ourselves a special dispensation to watch the game. And Puppy Bowl, of course. And since you can’t have a Super Bowl without food, I discovered something important, something I could get behind. This game wasn’t about a perfect season, or blue-collar heroes, about pretty-boy quarterbacks or coaching dynasties.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

Oh no my friends.

This game was about chowder supremacy.

New England clam chowder vs. Manhattan clam chowder. Creamy and white vs. tomatoey and piquant. The chowder known around the world vs. the chowder maligned as the “other” chowder. The chowder kids cheer for vs. the chowder that makes kids groan.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

But, not really. In my heart, there is only one chowder. New England clam chowder forever! I’ve tried to like Manhattan clam chowder, I really have. I love tomatoes and I love clams, but Manhattan clam chowder I do not love. It’s not a chowder. Chowders have cream and butter. But Isaac? Exactly the opposite. He loves Manhattan clam chowder best.

So instead of making New England clam chowder, which would have implied clandestine culinary support of the Patriots, or Manhattan clam chowder, which would have made the cook grumpy, a sure way to ruin the soup, we made Brooklyn clam chowder.

Fred loves football AND clams

What’s Brooklyn clam chowder you ask? It’s an homage to two of the greatest dishes we’ve discovered since moving to Bay Ridge.

The first is Polonica‘s cucumber soup; a simple broth, made creamy with a touch of sour cream and flavored with Polish dill pickles and tons of fresh dill. The second is a special we had once at local Italian stalwart Canedo’s; clams and mussels steamed in white wine with tons of garlic and hot, pickled cherry peppers.

Homesick Texan's Mythical Biscuits

Brooklyn clam chowder has its foundations in New England clam chowder, but the pickled peppers do give it a Manhattan chowder-esque reddish hue. I know it sounds weird to put pickles in soup, but you’ll just have to trust me on this. They add a beguiling flavor that’s very hard to put your finger on, an unexpected lightness and delicacy to a soup that can be a bit heavy.

Brooklyn Clam Chowder

If I may mix my metaphors, this chowder is a real home run. Especially when served with an endless supply of Lisa’s extraordinary biscuits, a pat of Ronnybrook garlic butter and a growler of locally-brewed SixPoint beer.

Brooklyn Clam Chowder

Top it all off with a Giants victory, and you’ve got the recipe for a very pleasant Sunday evening.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Brooklyn Clam Chowder.

Brooklyn Clam Chowder

prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: 1+ hours

  • 3 dozen Littleneck Clams
  • Corn Meal
  • Olive Oil
  • 2-3 small-medium Onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 4 ribs Celery, diced
  • 3 medium-sized Carrots, peeled and diced
  • a few hot Pickled Peppers, like Cherry Peppers or Rick’s Pepi Pep Peps, to taste, chopped
  • 1/2 c. Dry Vermouth
  • a few dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 12 small, waxy Potatoes, cut into discs
  • 6 cups Water
  • 5 medium Kosher Dill Pickles, diced
  • Salt
  • Crème Fraîche
  • Fresh Dill, chopped

A half an hour before starting the chowder, scrub the clam’s shells under cold water and place in a bowl. Cover with cold water and float a little corn meal on the surface. Set aside.

Heat a large glug of olive oil over a medium flame in a large soup pot. Add the onions and cook until beginning to loose opacity. Add the garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and pickled peppers. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften.

Drain the clams and rinse the shells under cold water to remove the corn meal.

Turn the heat up to high, add the vermouth and Worcestershire sauce and add carefully add the clams. Clamp the lid on and let the clams cook for 10 minutes. Carefully remove each clam to a bowl. Be sure to shake loose any vegetables that cling to the shells and dump all liquid back into the soup. Remove the clams from their shells, put them in a storage container and stow in the fridge. Dump the shells into the garbage.

Add the sliced potatoes, the water and the pickles. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and partially cover. Allow to cook for at least an hour or as long as needed stirring often and adding a bit of water as needed to keep the vegetables covered.

When it’s time to eat the soup, turn off the heat, taste the broth and season with salt as necessary. Stir 3 big soup spoons of crème fraîche into the broth, add the clams back into the chowder and season liberally with a big handful of fresh dill.

This would also be good with a little Tabasco sauce. Enjoy!

26 Responses to “The Chowder Bowl”

  1. Jennifer Hess February 5, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    That sounds absolutely wonderful. Mmmmmm.

  2. michelle February 5, 2008 at 1:52 pm #

    “goat rodeo” = spit take all over my monitor

    down with the spurious “chowder” known as manhattan. chowder has cream. chowder has butter. chowder has (preferably) bacon.

    The pickles in this recipe kinda scare me, but this picture is gorgeous. And the creme fraiche added at the end… heavenly.

    Us vs. Food

  3. Lydia February 5, 2008 at 2:18 pm #

    Though I am a native New Yorker, I’ve lived in New England long enough to know that NE clam chowder is the only chowder that can claim the title — the others (including that red stuff from Manhattan) are merely soup, not chowder.

  4. deb February 5, 2008 at 2:44 pm #

    I love the chowder pairing! I hadn’t even considered that it would be the ultimate superbowl party food. Speaking of pickles in soup, I saw a Pickle Soup recipe in the Boston Globe a couple months ago and very much want to make it, but my husband thinks that it would be very, very gross. Surely I can at least get you to agree it sounds intriguing?

  5. Paul February 5, 2008 at 6:17 pm #

    WOWEEE ZOWEEE.. that looks amazing…

  6. French Laundry At Home February 5, 2008 at 6:19 pm #

    You suck. And of course, by “you suck” I mean when are you making that chowder for me?!?!!? Holy cow….

    I’m looking at your recipe and wondering if a little saffron or cumin might give it a punch, since I’m allergic to most hot peppers…… hmmmmmm…… methinks I have a project in the works; after I finish perfecting lobster bisque. That’s my personal mission for February.

  7. lemontartlet February 5, 2008 at 6:28 pm #

    Somewhere around the first soup picture, my taste buds staged a revolt. They’re complaint was that they weren’t getting to try this delicious looking chowder, and to make me pay for not getting up and driving to wherever you are to beg for some they tried to drown me in drool.

    Yum. And did I mention yum.

  8. liz February 5, 2008 at 6:41 pm #

    omg, that cat looks just like mine!

    (oh, and the soup sounds great.)

  9. ann February 5, 2008 at 8:48 pm #

    Jenn — Thanks! It was delicious. Even better the third day as dinner tonight :-)

    Michelle — Ha! I hoped no one would notice, but you did… Bacon! There was supposed to be bacon in this, I had it in the freezer, but it wasn’t ’til at least an hour after we’d already eaten that I smacked myself on the forehead and said, “Doh! The bacon!” Isaac was very confused. The soup would, of course, be better with it, but it was still pretty darn fantastic without it!

    Lydia — You know, I was thinking of you specifically as I was writing this post, wondering where on the chowder spectrum you would fit in. I’m glad to know you’re as chowderly sane as I thought you were ;-)

    Paul — Thanks! And thanks for stopping by. Your pictures are gorgeous!

    Carol — Allergic to hot peppers? That’s just zany! I’d offer to have you over for some leftovers, but uhm, well, they’re gone! I’m not sure saffron would work here… Just leave out the peppers altogether. No one would ever notice!

    Lemontartlet — So glad you didn’t drown! That would be embarrassing. Can you imagine the authorities trying to figure that one out? tehehe

    Liz — He does! That’s amazing! Maybe Fred and Hazel should hang out sometime!

  10. French Laundry At Home February 5, 2008 at 10:11 pm #

    Yes, allergic to hot peppers. I have asthma, and my allergy to them has landed me in the ER with a full-on asthma attack that not even an inhaler can stop. It sucks. So I have to be so so so careful when I eat in restaurants. It sucks. It’s a relatively new allergy, too (gotta love inching close to 40 when your body does a big ole shift), so I know what I’m missing, damnit.

    I try to find other ways to add “heat” to dishes, whether it’s horseradish or something else that won’t kill me….. it sucks.

  11. deb February 6, 2008 at 12:27 pm #

    Sob! My comment from yesterday didn’t appear. Nonetheless, I’d gotten so excited about your pickles in soup, that I mentioned a Polish Pickle Soup recipe I’ve been dying to make buy my supposedly pickle-loving husband thinks it sounds awful. I was hoping to get at least you of all people to cheer this experimentation. Oh, and I also mentioned that I love your pairing of Superbowl foods–brilliant!

  12. Julie February 6, 2008 at 2:06 pm #

    I’m not sure about the dill pickles (although I’m completely open to trying it) but everything else about it sounds perfect, especially the hot peppers. (Unless of course you’re Carol.) I prefer New England clam chowder to Manhattan clam chowder but this version sounds even better than the New England stuff.

  13. shelley February 6, 2008 at 3:22 pm #

    Hmm…. weird, but I’ll bet it works quite well!

    Team New England!!

  14. navtej kohli February 6, 2008 at 6:27 pm #

    I was searching for this kind of a blog for months now. Actually lost the hope of finding one, but here I am :) Thanks for the great posts!

  15. Anne February 6, 2008 at 7:28 pm #

    I’m with Julie. Your chowder wins the Soup-er Bowl. (Oh no I did’n!)
    Lisa’s biscuits are making my mouth water. You raved about them at our meet up and I’ve been dying to try them, but forgot. NOW I remember again!

  16. ann February 6, 2008 at 8:37 pm #

    Carol — Oh my lord! I never heard of such a thing. I’m so sorry! I think horseradish in a soup like this would be amazing, in fact, I just might co-opt the idea. You won’t mind I’m sure, I’ll give credit where credit’s due. In the same vein, in the last two years I have suddenly become hypersensitive to mosquito bites. My doctor doesn’t know what to do about it, because, really there’s no research and no literature on it. Zany, no? Gotta love getting on in years ;-)

    Deb — I found your comment! I scolded my spam filter harshly and now it’s whimpering in the corner. The things I do for you guys! Now that I’ve thrashed it about I bet it’s going to start letting in all the icky granny p*rn comments it usually catches ;-) Make the pickle soup! Make it! Alex will love it, I guarantee it. It sounds weird, but once you’ve tried it, it is seriously addicting. He’ll love you even more for it!

    Julie — I knew you were good people ;-) I love all these people on my side. You guys are the bestest!

    Shelley — Hear! Hear! New England rocks!

    Navtej — Thanks so much for the kind words. Never give up hope, and click around in the sidebar, some of my bloggy friends are amazingly talented. I hope you find some other site you like too.

    Anne — Oh yes you did! Sadly I think I even used that as the name of my post last year for the cheese soup I made for the Super Bowl. Birds of a feather flock together as they say ;-) Try the biscuits. They’re easy enough for a new mom, trust me. So easy and soooooo delicious!

  17. K February 7, 2008 at 6:00 pm #

    This looks and sounds beautiful — perfect for a blustery day. :)

    And the ONLY reason I watch the Superbowl is for the Puppybowl. SO ADORABLE AND TINY. :D

  18. Terry B February 7, 2008 at 7:44 pm #

    A fabulous soup and a great Sunday, it sounds like, Ann! Having never cooked clams, I have to ask a [“there is no such thing as a dumb”] question: What does the cornmeal do?

  19. ann February 7, 2008 at 8:43 pm #

    K — The triumvirate (or possibly troika?) of corgi puppies very nearly killed me this year. Whomever dreamt up Puppy Bowl is a GENIUS and should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I bet if we showed Puppy Bowl in Iran, whatshisface would stop insisting on trying to make weapons-grade uranium.

    TerryB — That’s a great question! The cornmeal helps the clams, ahem, purge. Basically, they ingest the delicious cornmeal and, ahem, release any bits of grime and sand that may be in their bellies. There will be no crunchy clams in my household! It makes me so angry when I go to a fancy restaurant and get gritty clams. Purging them is so easy, and costs nearly nothing. It’s a sign of a lazy kitchen in my humble opinion. Plus, it makes them taste ever so much sweeter. And who doesn’t love a sweet, plump, juicy, briny clam?

  20. Ann February 8, 2008 at 10:33 am #

    I have almost ALL of the bread pudding wrapped up and in my freezer. But I bet you don’t have any chowder left, huh? I have a cold and I just know it would make me better to eat your fabulous-looking chowder. Besides, I love things with “Brooklyn” in the name. Represent!

  21. Toni February 8, 2008 at 1:34 pm #

    Now this sounds intriguing. I’m with Lydia on the idea that clam chowder is the stuff from NE. But I’m always willing to try something different. Sometimes all it needs is a different name, and then everyone settles down and enjoys it. Pickles? OK……..I trust you.

  22. Christina February 9, 2008 at 7:31 pm #

    What an interesting twist–one that I’m definitely going to try. I’m an equal-opportunity chowder-lover. Might I even say I’m chowder-blind?

  23. ann February 12, 2008 at 7:48 am #

    Oh Ann, we did eat all the chowder! I’m sorry. That would be a pretty good trade though, bread pudding for chowder…. Next time! I do love to represent the county of Kings. I can’t believe it took me so long to get back here ;-)

    Toni — Brooklyn Clam Chowder is much better than Clam & Pickle Soup, right? I bet for sure you would love this. It’s hearty and unusual and delicious!

    Christina — Chowder-blind. Awh :-) What a loving sentiment at this time of year!

  24. Robin February 12, 2008 at 2:58 pm #

    MMmm the pickles in the soup are really intriguing… I love different takes on NE clam chowder too, thanks!

  25. Susan in Italy February 13, 2008 at 4:52 am #

    My uncle loves what he calls Czech pickle soup. I haven’t yet mustered the courage to try it but you make the idea of pickles in soup sound pretty darn good.

  26. ann February 13, 2008 at 8:59 am #

    Robin — Oooooh! You changed the name of your blog! How cool!! I hope pickle soup makes it onto Caviar & Codfish someday :-)

    Susan — Oh, your uncle is a smart man. You should listen to him! Pickle soup is darn good stuff.

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