A friend of mine is planning a trip to New England over the July 4th weekend, and asked me for some pointers, as I had been there three years back, during the same weekend. While talking to him, one memory that kept coming up again and again was of the awesome clam chowder I had at Bailey Island! It was not at all thick – in fact, quite watery! – but the flavour in it! Each spoonful served only to increase the greed for more… and wiping up a huge bowl was a few minutes’ job. Since, I have experimented with various combinations of milk and cream, and by now I believe I have the perfect recipe for a thin yet flavourful chowder.
And what is best, this chowder tastes equally good when made as a vegetarian option. I’m not even sure which version I prefer… the veggie version or the original clam one.
The only condition for a good chowder is that you should not mention the words ‘corn starch’ or ‘corn flour’ at all. Let alone say the words, you should not even think of them. Or any other thickening agent. The consistency has to be managed with milk, cream and cheese. And it is not difficult at all.
Feelings run strong among the fans of the different varieties of chowder. The original stuff known as New England chowder has potatoes and onions and clam, fish or corn as the main ingredients. Whereas the Manhattan chowder, its nearest rival has tomatoes in it! The true aficionados view this version with horror. In fact, in 1939, a bill was introduced in the Maine legislature making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal! 🙂
Also, there are varieties locally popularised in the names of most of the north eat states like Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware. And in San Francisco, it is common practice to serve chowders in a sour dough bread bowl.
So yesterday, I decided make an asparagus potato chowder. And it turned out sooo good! Isn’t it true that mascarpone cheese and heavy cream can do wonders to a dish? And I also mash some of the potato pieces to give the dish a bit of thickness without any stickiness.
And I use the bottom woody part of the asparagus to make a broth that adds to the lovely flavours of the dish.
Though traditionally chowders are served with oyster crackers, I prefer to pair it with some fresh bread as it serves as the main meal for me.
Next time I make a chowder, I’m going to be a bit more experimental, adding some celery and green peas and carrots to the mix. Though not a big fan of cooked carrots, I think the added colour could be good. Maybe just a little bit…
- 1 lb asparagus
- 1 large potato
- 2 onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp grainy mustard
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 oz mascarpone cheese
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- To make the broth, cut one onion into thick wedges.
- Break off the woody hard bottom part of the asparagus and place in a pan along with the onion wedges.
- Pour six cups of water in the pan, and bring to a boil.
- Simmer for 30 minutes. Pass the broth through a fine sieve and keep aside.
- Cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces.
- Peel and cut the potato into ½ inch cubes.
- Chop the remaining onion into small pieces.
- Mince the garlic.
- Heat a saucepan and add the butter.
- Add the chopped onion and fry till the ends begin to brown.
- Add the garlic and mustard and fry for a minute.
- Add the white wine and stir till most of it has evaporated.
- Pour the broth into the saucepan. Drop in the potato cubes.
- Add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Bring to a boil and simmer to cook covered.
- When the potato is cooked, mix in the mascarpone cheese.
- Mash some of the potato pieces into the broth.
- Add the heavy cream and remove from the fire.
- Garnish with dill fronds and serve hot with fresh baked bread.