A Dish Worthy of a Song
I never think of chowder without having the words of the Bing Crosby song pop into my head: Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder? In the Irish folk tune, Tim Nolan gets fuming mad and declares he’ll “lick the mick,” who did the dastardly deed. No one owns up.
Finally, Mrs. Murphy recovers from having fainted upon seeing the pants at the bottom of her cooking pot. She confesses that it was her fault. She’d been washing laundry earlier in the day and had neglected to remove the pants. Whereupon a song was composed on the spot to commemorate the incident. It seems the Irish can find humor in most anything.
Tom’s Tasty Take on Chowder
This past weekend, I noticed Tom was carefully tending a big pot of clam chowder while everyone else in his kitchen was up to their elbows in cookie dough. I wondered if we’d find a cookie, or two, at the bottom of the chowder pot. But we didn’t, despite all the commotion in the busy kitchen.
Undaunted by the competition, Tom methodically followed an Epicurious recipe, well. . . .except when he didn’t. He added more potatoes, a bit of Worcestershire, and dry sherry not called for in the original. All were good, flavorful additions. Watching him prepare a dish, I’ve noticed that he always tastes as he goes along, which a good cook always does. For lunch, he dished up bowls of the clam and potato mixture along with chunks of sourdough bread from Knead bakery. It was lip-smackin’, deck-the-halls delish!
Yankee Doodle in a Kettle
Truth be known, our forefathers weren’t much on clams. The Pilgrims fed them to their hogs. But today people react to chowder a lot like they do chili. Preparing it is often a matter of local preference and one with little agreement even among New Englanders. Everyone has a personal favorite or “best ever” recipe. There’s a thick, creamy-based variety. A thin chowder and one that’s clear. A white (New England) version and one with a red, briny broth from the addition of tomatoes (Manhattan).
Chowders can come with fish, corn or other vegetables. Some vintage recipes call for “two gills of wine,” which is equivalent to a half cup of vino. It seem the versatile fish stew is adjustable to about any taste and locality.
The Mark Twain of Cape Cod, author Joseph C. Lincoln, went overboard in his praise calling the fish stew “a dish to preach about, to chant praises and sing hymn and burn incense before. To fight for. . . It’s Yankee Doodle in a kettle.” Hmmm. . . sounds like ol’ Joe put a few more gills of wine in his chowder than the average recipe calls for.
Finding a Super Bowl of Chowder
For those wanting a professionally made chowder, there are a number of places around town where such can be had year round: Oceana, Peacemaker, Broadway Oyster Bar, to name a few. So there’s no need to wait for a special occasion to slurp the old-time delicacy. Still it’s great to enjoy a homemade chowder whenever you can, especially one made with ample TLC and a few gills of wine.