Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Clam Chowder. Version 1. Hatteras Style.

Marion, this post is for you.
Recently, my friend Marion called the Rosie Hotline. 1-800-OI812GO She was inquiring about clam chowders. Well, Marion, let's have a crash course here.
First, what type of clam to use. Wikipedia photo I'm assuming you're not going to be on the North West Coast harvesting your own geoducks (see above), the largest burrowing clam in the world, so that leaves us with the East Coast quahog. The quahog, pronounced KO hog, Mercenaria mercenaria, is also known as a hard clam, round clam, or chowder clam. The name quahog comes from the Narraganset Indian word poquauhock. The Indians used the clam as food and the shell for ornaments and tools. Beads were made from the shell and strung together and were used as wampum, or shell money, hence the species name is similar to the Latin name for commerce. Those with purple spots were twice as valuable as the white ones. Quahogs include both Littlenecks and Cherrystones. The difference is size and price. The Littlenecks are small quahogs about an inch or two across and are named for Littleneck Bay on Long Island, New York, once an important clamming center. Cherrystone clams are 3 inches or so and are named for Cherrystone Creek, Virginia. When we went to Billy's Seafood to pick up clams, a dozen Littlenecks were $3.50. A dozen Cherrystones, twice the size, were also $3.50. We bought the Cherrystones. More clam for the money. Clams range in size from Littlenecks (1-2 inches) to Middlenecks to Topnecks to Cherrystones to Chowder clams (greater than 4 inches). Littlenecks are generally farm-raised so as to harvest them when they're still small. As a rule, the smaller the clam, the more tender and sweeter it is. You'd want Littlenecks if you're eating them raw. They're also good steamed or grilled on spaghetti. For Cherrystones, I'd use them in a chowder, but you can roast or steam them. The larger and tougher Chowder clams are still very flavorful and should be chopped, diced, or minced and used in chowders, fritters, or dips. So, once one has live clams, how does one proceed? One puts the clams in the freezer. Leave 'em in overnight. The water inside the shell helps pop the clam open when it freezes and expands. Sometimes you may still need to pry the shell open. Next, thinly slice the clam while it's still frozen. Or you can buy a can of clams. Le sigh. Once one has assembled one's clams, one must decide upon what type of chowder to make. There are as many chowders as there are fishing villages. Mr. Hawthorne is starting with a basic Hatteras Style Clam Chowder. And please don't send me hate-mail if this isn't the way you make it. Everybody has their own way. Maybe I'll just call it the more generic Outer Banks Clam Chowder. A Hatteras Style Chowder is more of a clear clam broth as opposed to the New England Style, which is thicker and has a cream base. Manhattan Chowder has a clear broth but adds tomato to it.
2 carrots, peeled and diced 3 celery stalks, diced 1 large onion, diced 2 potatoes - Save to dice right before you add to pot. You don't want the potatoes to brown. 2 small slabs of pork fatback
Let the fatback sweat a bit over medium heat. While that's frying ...
... peel the potatoes ...
... and dice.
Add veggies to pot and water to cover. Turn heat to low and let barely simmer. Cook over low until potatoes are tender.
Frozen Cherrystones.
Most of the clams have popped open on their own but a few need to be slightly pried.
Scrape out the frozen clam.
And chop.
Add to pot. Hmmm. Needs more clams. Pry open.
Scrape out.
Join the party.
That looks much better. That's a baker's dozen of Cherrystones.
Mr. Hawthorne added about 2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp chicken base. One could use chicken broth or preferably one's homemade chicken consomme. Heat through and serve.
This is my contribution to the dish - I grew the parsley and thyme.
This is some fine chowder.
It's damp, cool, and windy outside. And this clam chowder is the perfect meal. My taste buds and innards are happy indeed.
Next, we'll be trying a New England Style Clam Chowder. Stay tuned for more chowdery goodness.


The ever-alert Marion said...

Rosie Rides Again! Thanks for the best explanation I've seen and nowhere else have I read about freezing them. The ones I got were evidently cherrystones. We steamed them first and they threw off a lot of wonderful broth (not much meat). Interesting about the Hatteras chowder - looks good, but I'm surprised you used chicken broth instead of clam....btw the sainted MFK has a wonderful anecdote about oyster stew made with broth or water - more "oystery"....

Anonymous said...

Clam juice was added. Remember it was frozen inside the clam shell and added to the pot.


Rosie Hawthorne said...

I'm using clam juice in the next chowder - the New England style which is creamy and which I prefer.
I contemplated using my shrimp stock, but this was Mr. Hawthorne's party and he doesn't let me play. I ended up using the shrimp stock in a heavenly shrimp etouffee I made when Mr. H. was out of the kitchen. Posts to follow.

DH said...

Wish I cared for chowder. Just wanted to suggest: the Rosie "Hawtline" ;)

dh said...

I just went back and read some because the word "Quahog" caught my attention. In Family Guy, (the animated show... I know you don't watch it but it's pretty funny and at least Mr. H should watch it...) anyways, the town in the show is Quahog and the bar Peter frequents is the Drunken Clam! I always wondered what that name meant. Thanks!!! :)

E. A. Marion said...

I was never a fan of Family Guy until stuck on a 15 hour flight to China where I watched the Family Guy parody of the first Star of the funniest things I've seen in a long, long time. Mr Hawthorne should keep an eye peeled out for it.

SweetPhyl said...

Heya Rosie--interesting story about Hatteras style chowder. A few years ago I was on a Chowhound Board and we were discussing the different chowders. I boasted about my preference for a Hatteras style chowder and included the description as a clear browth chowder with potatoes, bacon etc. Well, a Yankee jumped all over me calling it a Rhode Island style chowder and that I was spouting a form of culinary sacrilidge by calling a clear broth chowder Hatteras style when it actually originated in Rhode Island. Well, we "discussed" it a bit and then he referred me to Wikipedia, for G*d's sake! I ended the discussion with "birthplace of America" and "lost Colony" stuff stating that we probably did it first and just there were more people in the north east who claimed it to be the birthplace of clear broth chowders, doesn't make it so. And stomped away from the discussion and refused to type anymore.

Knowing your fondness for food history, I was wondering if you knew of such balderdash as being true. I find it hard to believe Rhode Island thought of it before our hearty early Outer Bankers.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

SweetPhyl, the word quahog comes from the Narraganset Indian word poquauhock. And the Narragansets are a Rhode Island tribe, descendants of the aboriginal people of the state of Rhode Island. Oral history and archeological evidence establishes their existence in this region more than 30,000 years ago. They had two homes - a winter home and a summer home. The winter home was a long house in which up to 20 families lived. In the summer they moved to the shore where they lived in wigwams. It's entirely possible they could have come up with a clear clam chowder. Sorry if I'm busting your bubble here.

SweetPhyl said...

Yeah, but I bet it took a southerner to put PIG in it! LOL

Rosie Hawthorne said...

I think you have a very valid pig point there, SweetPhyl.

Just found this:

Clams and oysters were consumed in such quantities along the Atlantic coast by the American Indians that, in some favorable gathering-places, empty shells were piled into mounds ten feet high. According to the book Eating in American - A History, by Waverley Root and Richard de Rochemont:

The Northeastern Indians made considerable use of fish, but the Pilgrims were slow to follow their example; they did not care much for fish, except eels . . . Fish chowder was a popular dish among Northeastern Indians, but as this dish has been created spontaneously, in one form or another, along every coast in the world, we can hardly credit the Indians with having introduced it to Europeans . . . Clams became accepted to them in time, but it is on record that in 1620s the Pilgrims fed clams and mussels to their hogs with the explanation that they were "the meanest of God's blessings."