Actually, with such a vast country, you can imagine there is not one American cuisine but several ranging from Southwestern to Cajun or specialties like key-lime pie or Philly cheesesteak.
The recipe I picked is actually from New England. I have wanted to eat and make a clam chowder forever. Unfortunately, kosher restrictions do not allow us to eat clams, which means I won’t be able to enjoy a real clam chowder anytime soon. However, I love challenges and I decided to reproduce the taste, texture and flavors of clam chowder but with kosher ingredients. If you are a purist and only swear by true New England clam chowder, I suggest you move on to the next recipe!
Since I never tasted real clam chowder, I needed to have someone over who had had it before. I invited our Colombian friend Connie to be the judge. Also, I never had soup in a bread bowl, so I decided to embark in the baking of bread to enjoy the full experience.
The word chowder originally comes from Latin calderia (a place to warm things). The French words chaudiere and chaudron come from the same root. Any dish of vegetables or fish stewed in a cauldron came to be named “chowder”.
Fish chowders came before clam chowders. Fish chowders made by early settlers differed from other fish stews as they included salt pork and biscuit (which was eventually replaced by crackers). The earliest references of chowders date back to the 16th century on the Atlantic coast of France. The first printed recipe of fish chowder dates back to 1751 in the Boston Evening Post. Only in the latter part of the 19th century did clams start to make their way into fish chowder. They eventually became an iconic dish of the New England region. There are several variations of clam chowders including Manhattan (clear broth with tomatoes), Rhode Island (clear broth), New Jersey (light cream and tomatoes).
Recipe of Clam Chowder
Ingredients (for 8 people)
- 1 lb (500g) cod
- 2 lb (1kg) potatoes, peeled
- 1 pack of soy-based bacon (e.g. Smart Bacon)
- 2 sweet onions, sliced
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 2 celery stalks with green tops
- 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- 1 can of sweet corn (optional)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 pint (500ml) cream
- 2 fresh fish carcasses (with some flesh on it)
- 2 cups (500ml) milk
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 tablespoons (60g) butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Bacon bits
Make the fish stock. Can be prepared in advance. Put the two fish carcasses in 1 quart (1l) of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Pass through a sieve and set aside.
Cut the fish in 1×1 inch (3cm) pieces. Meanwhile, prepare the chowder base. Slice the soy-based bacon into 1/8 inch (3mm) dice.
In a large stockpot, on the lowest heat setting, add a little olive oil, 1 tbsp (15g) of butter and sauté “bacon” for 4-5 minutes. Remove bacon from stockpot.
In the same pot, sauté thinly sliced celery, and sliced onion until onions are translucent. Add minced garlic during the final few minutes of browning.
Add 2-3 cups (500-750ml) of the fish stock (adjust amount if necessary), scraping browned onion bits from bottom of pan. Add 2 whole bay leaves. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Wash, peel and cut the potatoes into 1×1 inch (3cm) cubes. Add to the pot, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
Chowder should be thickened with a few tablespoons of flour or corn starch stirred into a cup of cold broth. More thickener can be added if you like a thicker chowder base. Add pieces of fish.
After 25 minutes of cooking, check if potatoes are tender. When potatoes are nearly done, add a can of corn.
Add milk and cream in the ratio you desire. For richer chowder, add more cream than milk.
Simmer for another 15 minutes and add remaining butter, minced parsley and salt and pepper, to taste. Remove bay leaves before serving.
When butter has melted, serve in bowls or bread bowls. Sprinkle with bacon bits and garnish with fresh parsley. Milk crackers are a traditional accompaniment.
Recipe of Bread Bowls
Ingredients (for 4 large bread bowls)
- 2 packages of active dry yeast
- 2½ cups (750ml) warm water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 7 cups (900g) all-purpose flour
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon water
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand for about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, add the yeast mixture, salt, oil and 4 cups (500g) of flour, and then beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, ½ cup (100g) at a time. Beat well with an electric mixer or food processor at medium speed after each addition. Continue to beat for a few minutes.
Spray oil in a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with tin foil and let rise in a warm place or in a preheated oven at lowest temperature (turned off before placing the bowl). Let dough rise until doubled in volume (about 40 minutes).
Divide dough into 4 equal portions. I personally use a scale to have portions of same size. Shape each portion into a round loaf. Place loaves on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise in a warm place or warm oven, until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F/200C. In a small bowl, beat together egg white and 1 tablespoon of water. Lightly brush the loaves with half of the egg wash.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, then brush with remaining egg white mixture, and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.
To make bread bowls: Cut a ½ inch (2cm) thick slice from the top of each loaf. Scoop out centers with a knife on the edges, then with a spoon. Leave about ½ inch (2cm) thick shells. Fill bread bowls with chowder and serve immediately.