The annual Great Seafood Chowder Challenge was as popular as ever at the University of Delaware’s Coast Day Festival, which was held on Sunday, October 6, at UD’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. Under the chowder challenge tent, members of two 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 “New England Style Clam Chowder,” which was offered by the Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association, and “New England Clam and Corn Chowder,” which was offered by the First State Chefs Association. Sea Watch, International, of Milford, Delaware, 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 700 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 Style Clam Chowder” was named as the people’s choice for the 2002 Great Seafood Chowder Challenge.
“Both chowders were excellent — the bright and sunny weather didn’t stop the visitors from sampling and voting in the chowder challenge,” said Doris Hicks, seafood specialist for the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service and organizer of the event. “We had a great turnout, and the Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association won back the title of People’s Choice.”
The winning chowder recipe was created by Joe Oertel, who is the executive chef at Grillin’ Joe’s Restaurant and Pub in Ocean City, Maryland, as well as sous chef at Carousel Hotel in Ocean City. Oertel cooked bacon and added potatoes and a mixture of celery, carrots, and onions called mirepoix, which gave his clam chowder a subtle flavor. To this combination, Oertel added white wine, roasted red peppers, tender ocean clams, and thyme in a cream base to come up with the award-winning chowder.
The recipe for “New England Clam and Corn Chowder,” was created by certified executive chef Tom Hannum, who is the executive chef at the Hotel du Pont. Hannum added heavy cream, potatoes, and fresh, white corn — cut from the cob — to a sautéed mixture of bacon and clams to make a creamy chowder with just the right combination of clams, potatoes, and corn.
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.
2002 Seafood Chowder Challenge Recipes
2002 Winning Recipe — Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association
NEW ENGLAND STYLE CLAM CHOWDER
by Joe Oertel, Executive Chef, Grillin’ Joe’s Restaurant, Ocean City, Maryland,
and Sous Chef, Carousel Hotel, Ocean City, Maryland
1 pound mirepoix (equal parts celery, carrots, and onions — diced small)
1 pound russet potatoes, 1/4" diced
1 pound raw bacon, chopped
2 roasted and chopped red peppers
6 ounces white wine
49-ounce can clams with juice (separate the juice from the clam meat and hold each)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 quarts heavy cream
1 1/2 quarts half-and-half
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
3 ounces butter
4 ounces flour
1. Gather all ingredients and hold in separate bowls or containers.
2. Start with a 2-gallon stockpot or something of equivalent size.
3. Turn the heat on medium high and add bacon. Cook until crisp.
4. Add butter, potatoes, and mirepoix, and cook until soft. Remember to stir so ingredients do not burn.
5. Add the wine, and stir thoroughly.
6. After the alcohol from the wine has cooked out, stir in the roasted red pepper and flour.
7. Stir in the clam juice, and allow to slowly boil.
8. When slow boiling occurs, add thyme, white pepper, and salt.
9. Turn the heat down to a medium flame, and add heavy cream, and stir.
10. Just before soup boils again, add clams and half-and-half.
11. Remember to stir frequently, and do not scrape bottom of pot in case there is scorching.
12. Adjust salt and white pepper to your taste.
2002 Runner-Up — First State Chefs Association
NEW ENGLAND CLAM AND CORN CHOWDER
by Tom Hannum, CEC and Executive Chef, Hotel du Pont, Wilmington, Delaware
1 can chopped clams in broth (49 ounces)
1 large red onion (chopped)
1 pound red skin potatoes (small, diced)
8 ounces applewood smoked bacon (diced)
1/2 cup carrots, diced
2 ounces whole butter
4 ounces flour
1 quart heavy cream
9 ounces water
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 ears white corn (cut from cob)
Sauté bacon over medium high heat till lightly browned. Add onions, and sauté till translucent (approximately 5 minutes). Add whole butter, and melt. Sprinkle with flour, and cook the roux for about 5 minutes. Add can of clams and broth and water. Simmer till thickened. Add potatoes, and simmer 5 minutes. Add heavy cream and corn kernels. Simmer until potatoes are just tender. Add celery seed, thyme leaves, and black pepper. Adjust seasoning with salt if needed.