VCS New England Clam Chowder Tips

DSCN2328On April 14, Chefs Joe Price and Sarah Powers from Flour Bakery + Café came in as our Visiting Chefs. The dish they prepared is an absolute classic – New England clam chowder. Chowders are seafood or vegetable stews that are often milk or cream based. Clam chowder was created when the clams found in the New World replaced fish in the fish-milk stews of the English coast lands. There are several regional variations. The New England variety is a thicker, cream-based one known for having potatoes and onions, and no tomatoes. It’s even commonly believed that it’s illegal to put tomatoes into clam chowder in Massachusetts. While not actually true, it paints quite a strong picture. Here are some tips to make this dish on your own:

The Preparation. Assemble your ingredients and be aware of when and where to cook them. Bacon is an optional addition that provides a smoky flavor. If being used, start by cooking it first. Next to be added are finely diced onions; Spanish and white are most recommended. Yukon gold potatoes should be cooked simultaneously, but separately.

The Roux. A roux is a thickening agent made by cooking wheat flour and a fat together. The heat removes the flour’s raw taste and leaves behind a substance that is stable and smooth. This is how to get the desired thickness of New England clam chowder. In this case the flour is cooked with butter. If bacon is being used, the grease can also be added to the roux as well. Once this is finished, it can be added to the rest of the mixture, along with the clams and clam juice.

The Finishing Touches. Heavy cream, salt, and pepper should be added to taste. The amount of cream will affect the chowder’s thickness. Consider varying it to suit the season. Chives make an excellent garnish. Serve with crumbled oyster crackers, or in a bread bowl.