Thursday, November 12, 2015

Manhattan Clam Chowder

     Manhattan Clam Chowder!
     Many New Englanders claim that any chowder that is not made with milk is not a chowder.  This one size fits all definition of chowder is not true.  There are many kinds of chowder around the globe and milk is really just an optional ingredient.    
     The French invented chowder several hundred years ago.  Milk was not always part of the original chowder recipe.  The earliest French clam chowders were made with clams or foraged seafood from the shoreline.  Salt Pork, Green Bacon, lard or suet was in most kitchens back in those days.  Salt pork or bacon is part of many of the earliest recorded chowder recipes.  French chowders made prior to the age of Columbus contained no potatoes or any ingredients from the western world.     
     The French were not the only Europeans that lay claim to creating the first chowder.  Chowder was also made in Portugal and Spain a few hundred years ago.  Folks in Portuguese fishing villages made seafood soups in a big pot that is called a Caldera.  Seafood cooked in these cooking vessels was called Caldeirada.  A traditional Caldeirada technically is a chowder, even though after the Colombian Exchange the recipe was changed to include western world items like chile peppers, potato and tomato.  

     Both Rhode Island style Red Chowder and Manhattan Clam Chowder were created by Portuguese fishermen in New England.  These chowders were basically made the same way that a traditional Portuguese Caldeirada was made.  
     Manhattan Clam Chowder was created long before the year 1900, but it was called New York Chowder back in those days.  The locals referred to the highly seasoned tomato broth chowder as Fulton Fish Market Chowder.  It was not till some time during the Great Depression, the name of this chowder was changed to Manhattan Clam Chowder.
     For Manhattan Clam Chowder, bacon or salt pork is rendered to start the recipe.  A small amount of flour is added to the grease to create just enough roux to give this chowder a very thin body.  Carrots are added if the tomatoes are acidic, but many chefs add carrots no matter what.  Celery, bell pepper, onion, garlic, Spanish Paprika and a few select herbs combine to create the classic flavor.  Potatoes make this chowder hearty enough to warm up the bones of a fisherman on an icy cold day!

     Digital Pocket Camera Food Photo Distortion Problems     
     One thing that I have noticed about digital pocket cameras, is that certain food colors cause the sensors to overcorrect.  For example, tiny specs of oil floating on broth end up looking like spilled paint.  The bright orange color of Anatto (Achiote) really sends the yellow and red color sensors into a state of chaos.  A reddish orange tomato broth soup, like Manhattan Chowder, can look dull in one photo and the next photo might have a blaring contrast that looks like bright neon lights.  
     Food photography takes some practice and each individual digital camera has its own characteristics.  I usually use a good pocket camera for most food photos.  The problem is that pocket cameras are notorious for distorting the red, yellow and orange color tints.  Some experts blame it on the lens quality, while others say the fault is in the digital processing sensors.  
     The Manhattan Clam Chowder photos in today's article are a good example of how the color distortion effect was not noticed, till it was too late.  Out of 15 photographs, only 3 were remotely worthy of being published.  Adjusting the contrast with photo processing software was the only solution, but this method does not always correct bright orange color distortion.  
     As can be seen, even the best digital pocket cameras can lead to frustration when photographing food.  Chefs that are attending college, like myself, operate on a very low budget.  This means that there barely is enough money to prepare food for a photo example.  The food and the photos have to be perfect the first time, every time, when doing things on a college student budget.  
     The best way to avoid food photo distortion complications is to use a Digital SLR Camera with a high quality wide lens.  The better the lens, the more natural the photo will look and color distortion will be eliminated.  I use a Nikon D90 SLR for outdoor photography and now it looks like that professional camera will have to be used for food photography too, especially when taking pictures of soups that are a bright orangish red color!
     Manhattan Clam Chowder:
     This recipe yields about 3 cups of chowder!
     The tomato puree should be acidic.  Canned tomato puree from Spain or California is best for this recipe.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped smoked bacon or salt pork.
     Gently sauté, till the grease is rendered from the bacon and the bacon is a golden brown color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced white part of a green onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of small diced green bell pepper.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small diced celery.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small diced carrot.  (optional) 
     Gently sauté till the vegetables are tender.
     Step 3:  Add just enough flour, while stirring, to barely absorb the excess grease and to create a thin roux.  (About 1/2 to 1 teaspoon)
     Step 4:  Add 3/4 cup of canned tomato puree.  
     Add 2 1/2 cups of clam broth.
     Add 1/2 cup of minced fresh clams or minced canned baby clams.  (Quahog, large neck or little neck fresh clams are best for this kind of chowder.) 
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the chowder to a boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish paprika.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of minced Italian Parsley. 
     Add 3/4 cup of diced potato.
     Step 7:  Simmer the chowder till the potatoes are tender and the volume reduces to about 3 cups.
     Step 8:  Ladle the Manhattan Clam Chowder into a soup bowl.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley leaves.

     Classic Manhattan Clam Chowder!  

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