When the summer winds turn cooler in autumn, chowders and bisques will hit the spot.
Director of Dining Service/Executive Chef
Sprenger Retirement Centers
Towne Center Community Campus
Avon Lake, OH
“I've always had a good response with both New England and Manhattan style clam chowder. But my favorite — and I think the universal favorite — is the cream-based New England style. It's a rich, creamy chowder, and here and at other retirement communities where I've served both, people always say they like the New England version better. On a one-month menu cycle, I've served New England twice and the Manhattan once.
“I prepare both variations the same way except Manhattan has a tomato base and the New England has a cream base. I start off with bacon fat and then I saute the mirepoix. That's 50 percent onion, 25 percent carrot and 25 percent celery. I also add some minced garlic. Then, I deglaze it with white wine. Using boxed wine is fine for kitchen use. It's easy to store and works great.
“I use clam broth and heavy whipping cream for the New England Clam Chowder and start simmering. The best seasonings are a bay leaf, fresh thyme and Old Bay. Old Bay is great with any seafood.
“One of the biggest mistakes people make with any clam chowder is to put the clams in too early. I'll usually have frozen/already-cooked clams, and they just don't need that long. They can get rubbery. I add them just before serving and the liquid is hot enough to heat them through.
“Don't add potatoes too early, either; add them about halfway through the simmering. Otherwise they break down and you won't have the diced potato texture you want.
“At the very end, I add fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley to brighten things up, along with a few dashes of hot sauce, more for flavor than for heat. We serve the chowder with Saltine or oyster crackers.
“Chowder is a heavier item, so you want to make sure you don't serve it with something that will compete too much with it. Salad is a good choice, especially a chicken salad. I think of it in terms of what you'd get at a clambake. You see chicken there, but not red meat.”
“Chef Bobo” (Robert Surles)
Executive Chef and Director of Food Services
The Calhoun School
New York, NY
“We make a corn chowder without using dairy, which a lot of kids have problems with.
When you puree vegetables, you get more flavor, less fat and the same texture, as well. We scrape corn off the cob, saving the corn milk that is released, and then puree some kernels while keeping some kernels whole.
“This is a harvest dish served mainly when fresh corn is available, at the end of summer when school starts up until October.
“Other vegetables are a nice addition and we puree them as it suits our mood: do we want it really creamy today, or maybe a little less creamy? Carrots, onions, leeks, turnips, shallots, celery and sometimes red pepper are all appropriate. Turnips can add a sweet, smoky taste like bacon. We use a vegetable stock that we make here, also.
“I use a bouquet garni (bunch of herbs tied into a bag) with bay leaf, thyme, black peppercorns and parsley. At the very end, I add lime juice. That really balances the flavors and brings it all together.
“Don't forget a nice crusty piece of bread on the side.”