Chaudrée (deux recettes)

Many American foods have their rootsfirmly planted in Europe and have developed in this country in a sortof convoluted fashion. The recipes were often brought to our countrywith immigrants when they migrated here, and usually adapted toutilize ingredients that were readily available. Chowder, forexample, had its beginnings in France, then was brought to FrenchCanada before finally evolving into the chowders that are famous tothe New England region of our country. The English word chowder, infact, is said to be derived from the French word chaudière—thepot in which chaudrée, or chowder, is cooked. The root wordfrom which these are based is chaud, French for hot; chaudièretranslates literally to cooker or heater. And if there were such athing as a family tree relating to foods, chowder’s first cousin onceremoved would be, in my opinion, Louisiana gumbo. That hearty dishtakes its name from the West African word gombo, meaning okra,and seems to be a sort of abstract of a chowder recipe that hasevolved with the conglomeration of peoples in Southern Louisiana,including some of the French that fled Eastern Canada to that region.
The chaudrée of NorthwestFrance is a sort of fisherman’s stew, which consists of seafood ofthe region simmered in broth along with vegetables and herbs. Alisting in the French cookery encyclopedia Larousse Gastronomiquetranslates chaudrée to English simply as “fish soup.”It goes on to state the various seafoods that can be included in thedish, including eel! When the French of that area migrated to Canada,not surprisingly, they brought with them their beloved recipes forchaudrée. A 1970 edition of the bi-lingual book Food-À LaCanadienne lists two recipes for chaudrée; one is basedon fish and the other potato. When some of these French migratedsouthward, into New England, the language of course was English andchaudière, or chaudrée, began to be pronounced as—andeventually known as—chowder. There, the chowders were based onclams simply because of their regional abundance. It wasn’t until theearly 1900’s that a creative restaurateur at Coney Island replacedthe milk in chowder with tomatoes to create Manhattan Clam Chowder;this was, at the time, a travesty to a New Englander.
Chowder today can be based on almostany meat, fish or vegetable, though many purists will probablydispute this. There are a few guidelines that should be followedthough. Chowder is usually a rather rustic soup with coarse-choppedingredients; though it is often thickened naturally, traditionalchowder does not contain flour as a thickening agent, but a littleflour will give the soup a certain viscosity. Most importantly, thetwo defining ingredients that denote chowder are diced potato andcured pork, such as salt pork or bacon.
Potato Chowder
(Chaudrée de Pommes deTerre)
Yield: 3 quarts
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces diced lean ham
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2-1/2 pounds peeled and diced potatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup milk (optional)
Heat the butter in a large heavy souppot over medium high heat, when it begins to bubble add the ham,onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Sauté the vegetables and ham forapproximately 5 minutes, until they are soft and translucent but notbrowned. Stir in the potatoes, chicken stock, thyme, salt and blackpepper. Bring the soup to a boil then lower the heat to a low simmer;skim any impurities that may have risen to the surface of the soup.Simmer the soup for 45-60 minutes, stirring often.
Using a wire whisk, gently break apartsome of the potatoes to give the soup some viscosity. If adding themilk, do so directly before serving the soup and do not boil it oncethe milk has been added.
New England ClamChowder
Yield: 4 quarts
2 dozen chowder clams(quahogs)
2 quarts water orchicken stock
1/4 cup diced salt pork
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup diced potato
1 teaspoon freshthyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon blackpepper
1 quart milk
Place the clams in a pot with the wateror stock. Cover and steam them for about 10 minutes, or until theyare fully cooked and completely open. Strain the broth and reserveit; remove the clams from their shells and discard the shells. Chopthe clams and reserve them.
In a heavy soup pot over medium heat,sauté the salt pork until it is golden brown, crispy, and all thefat has rendered from it. Add the onion, celery, and carrot; sautéanother 2 minutes. Stir in the flour, lower the heat slightly andcook the vegetables and flour for 5 minutes, stirring continuously.Add the potato, thyme, salt and pepper, stir the potatoes to coatthem with the fat and flour. Add the clam broth to the pot a littleat a time, while stirring, to avoid any lumps. Bring the soup to aboil to a boil and add the chopped clams. Lower the heat, skim anyscum that has risen to the surface and simmer the chowder for 15minutes.
Stir in the milk, but do not boil it.If desired, garnish the chowder with a sprinkling of chopped parsley,paprika, and a pat of butter.

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