The annual Great Seafood Chowder Challenge is fast becoming one of the favorite events at Coast Day, which was held on Sunday, October 7, at the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. Under the chowder challenge tent, members of three local chefs’ associations were kept busy providing samples of their chowder for visitors to taste.
Prior to Coast Day, each association held a mini-chowder challenge among their members to choose the chowder that would represent them in the contest. The chowders of choice were “Clam Chowder Au Gratin,” which was offered by the Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association; “Roasted Garlic and Gorgonzola Clam Chowder,” which was offered by the First State Chefs Association; and the “New England Clam Chowder,” which was selected by the Mid-Atlantic Chefs and Cooks Association. Mid-Atlantic Foods, of Pocomoke City, Maryland, donated the clams for both the mini-chowder challenge and the Great Seafood Chowder Challenge.
Each association prepared approximately 16 gallons of their chowder for the chowder challenge — enough chowder to provide over 1,000 Coast Day visitors with a 2-ounce portion of each chowder to taste. The taste testers were then asked to vote for their favorite. When the chowder pots were empty, and the votes were counted, the “New England Clam Chowder” was named as the people’s choice for the 2001 Great Seafood Chowder Challenge.
“This year was the first year that three different American Culinary Federation (ACF) Chapters competed for the people’s choice award,” said Doris Hicks, seafood specialist for the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service and organizer of the event. “Coast Day visitors were well rewarded for their windy and cold wait in line with three very different heart- and soul-warming clam chowders.”
The winning chowder recipe was created by Jason Benders, chef at the Whiskers Restaurant and Pub in Long Neck, Delaware. Benders combined tender ocean clams with leeks, potatoes, bacon, and celery in a cream base to come up with an award-winning New England-style clam chowder.
The recipe for “Clam Chowder Au Gratin” was created by Bob Davis, certified executive chef and president of the Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association. Davis, a three-time winner of the chowder challenge, used jalapeño peppers, Tabasco sauce, and Parmesan cheese — topped with bread crumbs — to make a zesty and tasty chowder.
“Roasted Garlic and Gorgonzola Clam Chowder” was created by Joe Sakers, a chef at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington. Sakers named his heart-warming chowder after the delicious combination of roasted garlic and Gorgonzola cheese that was added to a creamy mixture of bacon, vegetables, and spices.
The chowder challenge is one of many activities featured at the University of Delaware’s annual Coast Day festival. Held the first Sunday in October at the Lewes campus by the College of Marine Studies and Sea Grant College Program, the educational festival has received state and national awards for increasing public awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the ocean and marine resources.
2001 SEAFOOD CHOWDER CHALLENGE RECIPES
2001 Winning Recipe — Mid-Atlantic Chefs and Cooks Association
NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER
created by Jason Bender, Chef
Whiskers Restaurant and Pub, Long Neck, Delaware
1 pound bacon or salt pork
1/2 pound leeks, chopped
1/2 pound onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 pint olive oil
1/2 cup crushed garlic
2 cups dry white wine
1 pound butter
1 pound flour
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons white pepper
1 cup fresh dill
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 pound peeled potatoes
2 quarts clam juice
2 quarts heavy cream
1 can clams
Render bacon or salt pork over medium heat until crispy. Add leeks, onion, celery, garlic, and olive oil. Sweat until translucent; deglaze with white wine. Add butter and flour to make a roux, until light brown for a nutty flavor. Add bay leaves, pepper, dill, Old Bay, and liquid smoke. Add potatoes and clam juice. Bring to a boil and simmer. Add heavy cream and clams, and simmer 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove from heat.
To serve: Place in soup cup, and garnish with cracker or fresh herbs — parsley or cilantro.
Yield: Makes approximately one gallon.
2001 Runner-Up — Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association
CLAM CHOWDER AU GRATIN
created by Bob Davis, CEC, and President, Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association
Three-Time Winner of Coast Day Chowder Challenge
3 ounces bacon
1/8 cup jalapeño peppers, diced
1 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 pound butter
1/2 pound flour
3 cups hot water
2 tablespoons clam base
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 ounces Tabasco sauce
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups blanched potatoes, diced
3 cups canned clams
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup bread crumbs, as needed
Sauté bacon until 3/4 cooked. Add jalapeños, onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté until just soft. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Melt butter in heavy saucepan, add flour and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes or until roux is thickened. Add water and clam base. Stir until well-blended.
Add spices and Parmesan cheese, stir until well-blended and smooth Add potatoes, clams, and bacon-vegetable mixture. Stir well, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir in heavy cream, and remove from heat. Ladle into soup crocks; then top with bread crumbs. Place in
broiler until bread crumbs are golden brown.
Serve at once.
2001 Runner-Up — First State Chefs Association
ROASTED GARLIC AND GORGONZOLA CLAM CHOWDER
created by Joe Sakers, ACF
DuPont Country Club, Wilmington, Delaware
3 diced red onions
1 bunch celery, diced
3 diced leeks
1/2 pound diced applewood smoked bacon
2 #5 cans clams
2 #5 cans clam juice
4 bulbs roasted garlic
5 ounces olive oil
4 ounces sherry
4 ounces vermouth
8 ears fresh corn, grilled
8 diced chef potatoes
6 diced tomatoes
5 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
5 ounces cream cheese
3 quarts heavy cream
3 quarts half-and-half
1 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces Worcestershire sauce
dill, thyme, and basil — to taste
salt and pepper — to taste
Strain clams reserving juice. Heat olive oil and add peeled garlic to the oil. Cook until the garlic just starts to brown; then remove from heat. In soup pot, sauté bacon. Then add onion, celery, and leeks. ook until vegetables become translucent. Add vermouth and sherry, and reduce liquid by half. Add the canned clam juice and the reserved juice, and bring to a boil. Add half-and-half and heavy cream and return to a simmer. Purée garlic in a food processor, and add to soup along with herbs and spices and clams. Simmer for one hour. Add diced potatoes, and cook for 15 more minutes. Slowly whisk in both cheeses, and finish by adding the diced tomatoes, grilled corn, lemon juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper. Thicken soup with cornstarch and slurry to finish.