A chowder is a rich, hearty soup with seafood or chicken that starts with a base of salt pork or bacon and a mix of vegetables like onions, celery, and potatoes. Most chowders are creamy, but one in particular-Manhattan clam chowder-has a tomato base.
Most chowders are made by first rendering the fat from salt pork or bacon. The vegetables, either minced or diced, are then cooked in this fat before the liquid is added to the pot. Most commonly chicken broth but also clam juice, white wine, milk, cream, and water. If a chowder has a tomato base it will usually call for canned or stewed tomatoes. Meat, seafood, and vegetables are then added to the pot. The heat is turned down and finally, milk, cream, or butter, often in equal parts with the liquid, depending on how thick the soup is desired, is stirred in before serving.
The most common types of chowders are clam chowder, corn chowder, fish chowder, Manhattan clam chowder, oyster chowder, potato chowder, and seafood chowder. The most common types of non-fish chowders are chicken broth-based and cream-based.
A wide variety of additional ingredients will go into the making of a specific type of chowder. For clams, potatoes are usually included. Other common ingredients in clam chowders are milk or cream, salt pork or bacon, onions, and celery. Common ingredients in fish chowders are white wine, salt pork or bacon, onions, celery, tomatoes (either green tomatoes or canned), carrots, and garlic. For corn chowder, green peppers and onion are common. For potato chowder, the most essential ingredient is potatoes (and sometimes onions), along with salt pork or bacon to enhance flavor. Chicken broth-based chowders typically include chicken (white or dark meat), carrots, celery, and onion in addition to the milk/cream and flour base.
A chowder is a type of soup consisting primarily of milk or cream and fish or vegetables. The word "chowder" comes from the French word "chaudiere" ("cauldron"), which translates to the cooking pot, which in turn came to English as caldron. The first known use of the word in this sense dates to 1784. It is a popular cooking method in many cultures around the world and is mainly used as a thickening agent to make sauces for fish or vegetables into more complex stews.
Today, chowders are often made with potatoes (such as rutabaga), and salt pork or bacon. New England clam chowder is typically made with milk, cream, and clams. Fish chowder, on the other hand, is often made with tomatoes (or sometimes clam juice), and thickened with buttery crackers or potatoes.