Professional chefs are used to making food for a crowd. But even they were unprepared to feed the hordes of hungry seafood lovers who flocked to the second annual Seafood Chowder Challenge at Coast Day on Sunday, October 3, at the University of Delaware's Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes.
Under the chowder challenge tent, chefs from the First State Chef's Association and the Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association took part in a friendly competition to see which association's clam chowder recipe could win over visitors' taste buds.
Starting at noon, visitors were provided with a 2-ounce portion of each association's chowder and asked to vote for their favorite. An hour and a half later -- after 24 gallons of chowder were consumed by more than 500 visitors -- the cook pots ran dry. And when the votes were tallied, the Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association won, for its "Eastern Shore Clam & Corn Chowder," by a narrow margin of 269 votes to 236 votes.
The winning New England-style chowder was created by Bob Davis, executive chef at Phillips by the Sea Restaurant in Ocean City, Md. The creamy chowder combines clams, corn, potatoes, cream, bacon, and celery, with garlic, thyme, and a generous dose of Tabasco sauce. Davis, who is vice-president of the Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association, also created last year's winning recipe.
The runner-up "Delaware Chowder Recipe" was created by Tom Howell, executive chef at the Dupont Country Club in Wilmington, Del. His concoction features clams with diced shiitake mushrooms, apple-wood smoked bacon, ham, corn, sweet potatoes, celery, leeks, and garlic seasoned with fresh herbs and Chipotle paste. For extra richness, the recipe calls for a mixture of egg yolks, dry sherry, and lightly whipped cream, which is gently stirred and cooked into the hot soup.
"The competition was really close this year," says Doris Hicks, seafood specialist for the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service and organizer of the event. "The public's response was tremendous, far beyond our expectations! Both chefs' associations did a great job and are already gearing up for next year, when we may need to increase the supply of chowder to meet the demand. There are a lot of clam chowder lovers out there."
The clams for the Seafood Chowder Challenge were donated by Mid-Atlantic Foods, Inc., of Pocomoke City, Md.
The chowder challenge is one of many activities featured at the University of Delaware's Coast Day festival. Held every 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. The next Coast Day is set for Sunday, October 1, 2000.
1999 Winning Recipe -- Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association
EASTERN SHORE CLAM & CORN CHOWDER
by Bob Davis, CHA, Executive Chef,
Phillips by the Sea Restaurant, Ocean City, Md.
10 oz bacon, diced
4 tablespoons clam base
10 oz celery, diced
24 oz clams, canned and chopped
10 oz onion, diced
18 oz potatoes, cooked and diced
20 oz corn, removed from cob
4 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
3/4 lb butter
1 teaspoon white pepper
11 oz flour
3 teaspoons onion powder
3 cups clam broth
1 quart heavy cream
14 cups water
Sauté bacon until 3/4 cooked in large, heavy pan. Add celery, onion, corn and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
In a separate pot, melt butter and then add flour. Cook the roux 10 to 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Add clam broth, water (hot), and clam base. Stir well to combine. Add remaining ingredients as well as the reserved bacon and vegetable mixture.
Cover and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and remove from heat. Serve in warm bowls with crackers or bread.
Makes approximately 3 gallons. Preparation time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
1999 Runner-Up -- First State Chef's Association
DELAWARE CHOWDER RECIPE
by Tom Howell, Certified Executive Chef,
Dupont Country Club, Wilmington, Del.
1/4 lb Kennett Square shiitake mushrooms, diced
1 cup dry sherry
1 onion, diced
1 cup Chardonnay
1 lb apple-wood smoked bacon, diced
1 quart heavy cream, whipped lightly
1/2 lb ham, diced
10 egg yolks
1 cup Delaware corn, cut off the cob, fresh
1 can (51 oz) Atlantic brand chopped clams
1/4 lb sweet potatoes, diced
Fresh thyme, to taste
1/2 cup celery, diced
Fresh rosemary, to taste
1 stalk leek, diced
Chipotle paste, to taste
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Render bacon until almost crispy. Sweat mushrooms, onion, celery, leeks, and garlic in the bacon fat. Add Chardonnay and reduce heat to simmer the soup.
Add ham, corn, clams, and sweet potatoes and continue to simmer until almost tender. Season with fresh herbs, Chipotle paste, salt, and pepper.
Over a double boiler, beat egg yolks and sherry until they stream. Fold in the whipped cream to the egg yolk mixture. To finish, gently stir the whipped cream and egg yolks into the hot soup. Do not boil.
Makes approximately 1 1/2 gallons. Preparation time: 2 hours.