Market basket: Warm up your winter with a hearty chowder

Market basket: Warm up your winter with a hearty chowder

Tammy Algood  |  Special to The Tennessean

Warmth is what I am craving for the next couple of months. It can come from a den fireplace, a soft sweater, wool mittens and snuggles from a puppy. As necessary as all of those are to me, sometimes I need that warmth to come from the inside out. That’s when it’s time to pull out the stockpot and make a hearty chowder.

Commonly lumped in the stew category, these are actually a nice mixture of soup and stew. The name comes from the French word “chaudiere,” which is a large kettle, pot or cauldron that fishermen at one time used when making dinner from their daily catch.

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That’s how it became entwined so closely with seafood, but it isn’t necessarily a requirement. Corn chowder obviously is seafood free. The term “chowder” is used today to describe any of a number of rich, thick concoctions that contain chunks of seafood or vegetables.

Break it down further and you have a distinct difference between chowders that are New England style and Manhattan style. New England chowders are what most think of as chowder because they are either milk or cream based. They also more than likely contain starchy potatoes that only serve to enhance the thickness and richness of the chowder. In the case of the ever-popular clam chowder, it only contains that one seafood.

Manhattan style chowders are tomato based. These chowders are dotted with chunks of chopped onions, peppers and typically have several types of seafood in the mixture. These are frequently oysters, shrimp, lump crabmeat and hunks of firm white fish.

Oyster crackers are a requirement for chowder as far as I am concerned. I have had it served with bread, but it isn’t as good to me. I also don’t like the trend I have noticed of having the crackers crumbled on top. I like adding them a bit at a time as I relish the chowder.

You asked for it

Stephanie Marsh of Birmingham would like to have some guidance on making roux. “My recipe says until it is dark brown, but could you please give me some idea of the time it takes?” she asks.


You will need to allow between 25 and 30 minutes for it to reach the proper color and depth of flavor. I use medium heat and once the flour is added to the oil, I stir constantly … so make sure you have a stool!

Tammy Algood is the author of five cookbooks and can be seen on “Volunteer Gardener” on PBS stations in Tennessee. Follow her at