Cream vs. Tomato = Sox vs. Yankees?

There’s only one real chowda according to old New Englanders. New England clam chowder is cream-based, and traditionally thickened with oyster crackers. Modern chowder uses flour or cornstarch as a thickener and most restaurants serve oyster crackers as a garnish. No tomatoes allowed. Here's a little known fact: in 1939 a bill that made putting tomatoes in clam chowder illegal was introduced in the Maine legislature. 

While cream or milk based clam chowders have been around since the mid-18th century, no mention of any tomato based chowder has been found that predates the late 1890s. Rumor has it that the addition of tomatoes in place of milk originated within the Portugese immigrant community in Rhode Island, where tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine. 

Everyone knows about the Yankees-Red Sox feud, for over 100 years known an one of the fiercest rivalries in sports and often a subject of heated conversations. So it should come as no surprise that even as far back as the 1930s scornful New Englanders took to calling the tomato version "Manhattan-style" clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker was an insult. Some things never change! 

2 bacon strips
1 celery ribs, chopped
1 small onion, grated
4 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup water
1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice
3 teaspoons reduced-sodium chicken bouillon powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups lo-fat half-and-half, divided
2 cans (6-1/2 ounces each) chopped clams, undrained

In a large heavy bottomed pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain; set aside. Saute celery and onion in the drippings until tender. Stir in cubed potatoes, water, clam juice, bouillon, pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Combine flour and 1 cup half-and-half in a small bowl until smooth. Gradually stir into soup. Bring to a simmering (not rolling) boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in clams and remaining half-and-half; heat through (do not boil). 

Drop 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter into hot bowl of chowder. If desired, garnish with bacon crumbles or coarse ground black pepper. Serves four.


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