A simple dish of chowder, in the past considered to be "poor man's food," has a history that is centuries old. Chowder has its roots in the Latin word calderia, which originally meant a place for warming things, and later came to mean cooking pot. The word calderia also gave us cauldron, and in French became chaudiere. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word chowder to the fishing villages along the coast of France from Bordeaux to Brittany.
Vegetables or fish stewed in a cauldron thus became known as chowder in English-speaking nations and different kinds of fish stews exist in almost every sea-bound country in the world.
Fish chowders were the forerunners of clam chowder and there’s no doubt that the most popular chowder served in the U.S. today is Clam Chowder. There are two styles of clam chowder; New England Clam Chowder, which is made with a cream base and Manhattan Clam Chowder which uses a base of pureed tomatoes.
But Chowder doesn't always have to include seafood. It's believed that all kinds of vegetable or meat chowders came into existence because the cook was just using up whatever ingredients they had lying around the kitchen. Corn, beans, chicken, ham, potatoes or other favorite foods can star in the filling soup. The only given in any bowl of chowder these days is that it's a thick, satisfying, steaming bowl of goodness.
For a twist on the traditional Chowder, consider these Chef’s Tips:
- For Seafood Chowders, choose a mix of fish and add in smoked fish for depth of flavor.
- Always start with bacon; bacon makes everything better, and adds a salty richness to most chowders that is undeniably good
- Add your favorite spicy addition, like adobo sauce from a can of chipotles or Sriracha, for a bit of backbite.
- Instead of diced potato, add Potato Gnocchi for a glorious, fluffy substitution.
For more chowder advice and recipes to inspire you, click here: http://www.chefjamie.com/index.php?searchword=chowder&searchphrase=all&Itemid=101&option=com_search