Thursday, February 02, 2012

red chile seafood chowder



For the Super Bowl, my friends and I usually serve food that represents the teams. And with Boston and New York playing this year, clam chowder seemed like the perfect fit.

But since I’m not committed to either the Giants or the Patriots, I couldn’t decide which style of chowder to offer. Did I want to serve the comforting cream-based New England style or did I want to serve the more lively tomato-based Manhattan style instead? Or perhaps I could offer both, and have people choose their favorite in a match called The Chowder Bowl.

It was a tough call and I was having a difficult time making a choice. Fortunately, my fishmonger made the decision easier for me. When I paid her a visit, all she had on hand were littleneck clams. I asked how many I’d need for chowder and she said, “With littlenecks, it’s not worth it. They’re too small. They’re not good chowder clams.”

“But it’s the Super Bowl this Sunday!” I said. “What should I do?” She looked at me and said, “When we watch the game, we like to eat dip.”

littleneck clams red chile seafood chowder

With that in mind, I took my bag of not-chowder clams and decided to follow her advice. There was a cream-cheese clam dip recipe in one of my Junior League books, but even after I spiced it up with some chiles and bacon it didn’t thrill me. Clearly, I still had chowder on the brain so I returned to my original plan. But this time, instead of just making chowder with clams, I also threw in some fish and shrimp to make seafood chowder instead.

Now, most people think of chowder as an East Coast dish but it also has a long history in Texas. There are several recipes for it in The First Texas Cook Book, which was published in 1883. And throughout he 1800s, the state’s newspapers published recipes, with a Galveston paper running a chowder tutorial on its front page saying that chowder was a favorite for parties.

The methods for making chowder haven’t changed much over the years, but for mine I swapped bacon for the salt pork and infused my tomato base with guajillo and chipotle chiles for some spice. For the seafood, I used clams, shrimp and red snapper, though you could easily throw in crabs, oysters, grouper, redfish or any other seafood that you prefer. This is a versatile dish.

I love seafood, and having a bowl full of some of my favorites makes for a hearty and satisfying meal. But one of the best things is that you don’t have to make a choice between the Manhattan or New England styles, as it combines the best qualities of both. The tomato and chile base is full of flavor. And since it’s pureed, it’s so smooth and velvety you might swear there’s a splash of cream.

red chile seafood chowder

This chowder will definitely be making an appearance on Sunday, along with some of my other game-day favorites. And sure, I might not be that invested in the actual game, but that doesn’t really matter. For me it’s the food served that’s always the true winner.

Red chile seafood chowder
Ingredients:
4 dried guajillo chiles, seeds and stems removed
24 Littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed or 2 10-ounce cans of chopped clams
4 slices uncooked bacon, chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1 canned chipotle chile
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne
1 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 cups fish, vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnishing
1 cup clam juice
1 pound grouper, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound small shrimp (51-60 count), peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon lime juice
Oyster crackers and/or tortilla chips for serving
Lime wedges for serving

Method:
In a dry skillet heated on high, toast the guajillo chiles on each side for about 10 seconds or until they start to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover chiles. Leave the heat on until water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let chiles soak until soft, about 30 minutes. Once hydrated, discard the soaking water and rinse the chiles. Place into a blender.

Meanwhile, if using fresh clams, fill a pot large enough to hold the clams with 2 cups of water. When it comes to a boil, add the clams, cover the pot and let them steam until the shells open, about 3-5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the clams from the pot (throw out any clams that don’t open), discarding the cooking liquid. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells, rinse well to remove any additional grit and chop. If using canned chopped clams, drain and rinse well to remove any shell pieces and grit.

In a large pot, cook the bacon on medium heat until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Leave 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pot (reserve the rest for another use) and add the onions to the pot. Cook on medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Place cooked onions and garlic into the blender. Add to the blender the canned tomatoes with their juice, the chipotle chile, the cumin, oregano, allspice, ginger and cayenne. Blend for 3 minutes until it’s extremely smooth.

Place the potatoes in the pot and lightly sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper. Add the broth to the pot, bring to a boil, cover the pot and cook the potatoes until they are firm yet tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat down to low and add to the pot the red chile tomato puree from the blender, cilantro, clam juice and cooked bacon. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper to taste. (Please note that the red chile tomato puree might aggressively bubble and splatter when added to the pot.) Add the grouper to the pot and cook for 5 minutes uncovered. Stir in the chopped clams, shrimp and lime juice and cook for another 5 minutes or until the shrimp is pink. Remove from the heat, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately with lime wedges and oyster crackers.

If you have any leftovers, reheat the chowder on low and don’t let it boil, otherwise the seafood will get rubbery.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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35 comments:

d.liff @ yelleBELLYboo said...

Man oh man does that sound good!

I missing living in New England where I could get fresh fish everywhere - I'd be a little nervous making this in DC. But I'm going to send it to my mom - maybe she'll make it when we go home in a few weeks!

GO PATS!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

D. Liff--They don't have good seafood in DC?

marthameetslucy said...

For being from California I have very strong chowder loyalties, thanks to my grandma making the best New England clam chowder I've ever had. Too bad she didn't write down the recipe. I know her secret ingredient was leftover scalloped potatoes. Your recipe is far enough removed from Manhattan clam chowder that I will have to give it a try.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Marthameetslucy--I had no idea there were such fierce chowder loyalties!

ileana said...

You are so creative! That chowder has a lovely color.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

ileana--Thank you! I have a lot of fun in the kitchen.

Louisa said...

I don't watch the Super Bowl here in Australia but I think I want to make this anyway! It looks great.

Sarah said...

This sounds great. I really prefer the Manhattan variety to the New England kind because I love the bright tomato flavor. Add chilies and I'm in Heaven! Thanks for sharing.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Louisa--You certainly don't need a football game to make this chowder!

Sarah--The tomato flavor does go well with seafood. Though sometimes the creamy comfort of New England chowder really hits the spot.

Elizabeth said...

Chowder loyalties can be dangerous! Especially since in CT, where I grew up, we also had Rhode Island clam chowder in the mix, which has a clear broth with no tomatoes, but plenty of potatoes and bacon. While doing some chowder research I also saw that there is a variant in Florida that contains hot chiles in a tomato base, so you are in good company!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Elizabeth--I read about the Florida chowder and how it uses a chile only found in St. Augustine, the datil chile. I'm very intrigued by it!

Jill Mant~a SaucyCook said...

This smells so good! I just love your food. I made your persimmons wrapped in prosciutto and now I want to make this soup. Maybe you should just have me over for dinner-we're lots of fun!! Thanks for the share!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Jill--Thank you, though the persimmons wrapped in prosciutto isn't my recipe.

katie said...

this looks so delicious!! i love reading your blog, but i live in spain, and it's hard to find so many of the ingredients called for in your recipe. sigh, i suppose i'll bookmark this for when i return to the states! cheers!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Katie--If you're in Spain, for the chile peppers you could substitute piquillos. It would taste different, but still good!

Novelismo said...

The Red Chile Seafood "Chowder" looks good ... thank you, Lisa. However, a more typically New York food might be pizza eaten on the street. New York Pizza, justly famous when sold by the slice ... consists of a cheese slice, dressed with additional toppings and re-warmed in the oven. That's really the only way to keep the crust from going leathery before you're done eating the slice.

Novelismo said...

Manhattan Clam Chowder is not really "chowder" ... but I'd like to see the broth from this one drizzled over the surface of a New England Clam Chowder in an interesting pattern ... it's true that chowder loyalties can be fierce ... I love your notes and often pass them along.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Novelismo--Thanks for passing them along.

Kimmi K said...

Alright. I have to try this. Although, I have never cooked with clams before. Once steamed open, do you just scrape the meat out or is there a trick?

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

So, I am totally going to do a "Chowder" Bowl on Sunday. I love the idea and I am blatantly going to steal it...

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kimmi K--There's no trick, just simply scrape it out!

Rocky Mountain Woman--Have fun!

Catherine Osborne said...

Lisa...This looks delicious! I am serving one of your recipies Sunday...but at my fiance's request it will be the TexMex Sloppy Joes...I made them last week and he RAVED about them and asked for them again this weekend! Delicious! (He is also a big fan of your beans and the fancy pants king ranch casserole)!!!!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Catherine--Hey lady, it's good to see you! So glad your fiance loved the sloppy Joes--they're perfect for football!

Lisa said...

I absolutely love this recipe as I am always looking for delicious looking seafood dishes. I also appreciate the spicy spins on a lot of your recipes. Perfect for Superbowl Sunday.

Gretchen said...

I absolutely LOVE chowders, in all their forms & variations! I already make the traditional NE clam version, but also do a salmon/fennel one, and cod-based one too. Now I've got yours and a bay scallop one from Food 52 to try!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Lisa--Thank you. And I do love the spice!

Gretchen--Aren't chowders wonderful? And that bay scallop one from Food 52 I'll definitely have to try, too!

Rachel said...

This is my kind of chowder - spicy and rich but without the cream! This would be the perfect dish to serve my spicy seafood loving dad next time he visits!

Rob, London said...

I did do a chowder bowl on Sunday. Sadly, I fear I didn't quite get the Manhattan base right, so had to give best to New England on the Chowder front. Also got a friend to read Ishmael's recollections of Mrs. Hussey's chowders from Moby Dick when the game finished at about half two in the morning. It cheered me up slightly as I waded through the dishes.

Rob, London said...

Where are my manners; it is of course a lovely looking recipe, and I will try it just as soon as I've recovered on the sleep front.

Anonymous said...

Can I cut this recipe in half and not lose any of the integrity of the dish?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--Yes.

Anonymous said...

Just putting it out for the others who are thinking of trying this recipe: Take your Seafood Watch card with you! Depending on where you are, getting Earth-friendly grouper can be especially difficult.

Now please explain why I never thought of adding chili to my fish chowder before now?

Kevin said...

A chili chowder sounds really good!

Aarti said...

Lisa, I was so grateful to have found your blog after having serious cravings Texan food and recently just moved from Houston to Los Angeles! Made the corn tortillas last night and they were delish! Quick question, the canned chipotle chile that you use in this recipe, is that chipotle chile in adobo sauce? Thanks for your help and wonderful recipes :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Aarti--Welcome! And yes, it's a canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce.

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