Many folks outside of New England may be under the misconception that chowder begins and ends with Manhattan (red) clam, New England (white) clam or the corn variety.
The truth is chowder has no boundaries.
On Thursday, The Early Show resident chef Bobby Flay will create a chowder with a twist.
Chowders have been improvised continuously for roughly 300 years as different foods become fashionable or abundant. As a result, there has never been a true chowder, although certain styles have become entrenched in specific regions.
Flay says true chowders are those that contain ingredients like seafood, salt pork or bacon, onions, potatoes, stock, milk or cream and herbs. Yet with all the ingredients listed, it is your own personal taste that drives the rhythm.
New England Clam and Sweet Potato Chowder
48 cherrystone clams, scrubbed
2 cups white wine
2 cups water
1/4 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely diced
3 tablespoons flour
6 cups clam stock (made from steaming the clams)
clam juice, if needed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chipotle puree
salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
Bring the wine and water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the clams, cover the pot and cook until all of the clams have opened, discarding any that have not. Remove the clams to a bowl and strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. This should yield 6 cups. If it does not, add some bottled clam juice.
Cook the bacon in a large saucepan over medium high heat until golden brown. Remove the bacon to a plate and remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until soft. Add the bacon and the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the reserved clam broth, thyme and chipotle puree to the pan, stir well, bring to a simmer and add the potatoes and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the cream mixture to the chowder and simmer over low heat. Remove the clams from their shells and roughly chop the meat. Add the chopped clams to the chowder and season with salt and white pepper. Serve with oyster crackers, if desired.