Friday, February 4th, 2011 | posted by Monahan's
As this wonderful Michigan weather puts a chill in our bones, there’s nothing like warmin’ up to a hot bowl of chowder. And what’s a fish market without chowder? It’s part of our history and all the credit goes to the people who brought us this hearty dish—the fishermen.
Dating back to around the early 1700s, some say that chowder most likely originated at sea. There were early European references made in England and France. Fishermen fishing the waters of the English channel would place a large pot or caldron (chaudiere in French) over a fire to cook all day. They used ingredients at hand: salt pork, vegetables, milk and fish as it became available. They added hardtack or ship biscuits to help thicken it. After a hard day of work, the pot of “jowter” (English) or “chaudiere” (French) became the meal of the day.
Chowder certainly has evolved since those days and one thing’s for sure—it now enjoys universal appeal. It’s popular all over the world, spanning many regions and culinary circles and utilizing many diverse ingredients. Chowder has become uber-popular at Monahan’s throughout the entire year. We have quite a few loyal fans and chowderheads.
I have been cooking chowder/soup for years. From cooking Maude’s (blast from the past) famous soups in Big Bertha (their 50-gallon soup kettle) to here at Monahan’s. I’ve always enjoyed it—it keeps my knife skills honed and I love seeing it all come together and enjoyed by some many of our customers.
Authentic chowders had salt pork, potatoes, onion, water, fish or seafood and were more than a soup, bearing a closer resemblance to stew. To me, there are no rules, it’s all right. Jasper White says “the essence of chowder is making something great out of what is immediately available.”
Chowders are usually pretty easy in preparation, a little choppin’, nothing fancy, and just keeping an eye on the pot. Chowder is great to start a meal and it’s even better AS the meal. It’ perfect for large gatherings and is truly best when made ahead, giving you more time to enjoy your company. Chowder is a wonderful one-pot-dish, it’s great comfort food and the varieties are endless. So jump in the “chowdah” pool, grab your caldron and get your soup on!
Here’s my recipe for Saffron-Rice Seafood Chowder.