Wednesday, July 24, 2013


You’ve no doubt enjoyed some variety of seafood chowder. If you live in New England, you’d better know your chowders, because they’re not all the same. I’m a native Rhode Islander, and our chowder is distinctly different from those creamy white (New England) and spicy red (Manhattan) chowders.

Traditional Rhode Island chowder has a clear broth, and it’s not always available, since restaurants know that only die-hard natives will ask for Rhode Island chowder.

My late mother, whose roots go back to the original settlers of this region, was pure Yankee. She made traditional Rhode Island chowder, but when we had cook-outs with guests, she’d end up adding milk, acquiescing to my dad’s suggestion that certain family members might not care for cream-less chowder.

And while most chowders are loaded up with clams or quahogs (‘hard clams’), this recipe features bay scallops.  A hundred years ago, Rhode Island was the top supplier of bay scallops, but environmental concerns have really decimated the bay scallop population around here. They’re mostly raised now in Florida aquaculture. Bay scallops are preferable for chowder because they’re small and sweet.

Here’s my mom’s recipe for Scallop Chowder:  

2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 ½ cups of mushrooms, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced small
4 cups of fish stock or bottled clam juice (fish stock is better)
1 cup of milk (go ahead and use cream if you dare)
3 Tablespoons dry sherry 
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco) 
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup water
1 lb. bay scallops

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and mushrooms, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Add fish stock and potatoes; cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in milk (or cream), sherry, pepper sauce and Parmesan.

Dissolve cornstarch in water and stir it slowly into the chowder. Cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring. Add the scallops, cook another 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve piping hot.

4-6 servings   

MARTHA REYNOLDS published her debut novel, Chocolate for Breakfast in 2012. It follows a young woman into adulthood during a year abroad in Switzerland. Chocolate for Breakfast was voted the 2012 Book of the Year in the category of Women's Fiction by Turning the Pages Books. 

Her second novel, Chocolate Fondue, is the sequel to Chocolate for Breakfast. Both books are available in digital and print versions. If you haven't read the first book, you can still enjoy the second, but it's better to start with Breakfast!  

Martha and her husband live in New England, never far from the ocean.

Find Martha Reynolds Online:

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  1. Ah, you're making me nostalgic between you girls! I travelled all round New England last year and loved trying all the different chowders - I think the best one I had was in Cape Cod but to be honest, they were all wonderful. Downloaded this recipe and will attempt it Martha! Thank you! xxx

  2. Thanks, Shani! Growing up, I didn't like what I considered a watered-down version of "real" chowder, but as an adult, I really enjoy a good, clear broth - as long as it's spicy!

  3. I've never been a big chowder fan, but my husband loves it. But, I do love a lot of seafood.

  4. This looks AMAZING! I haven't ever made chowder, but I love it. May have to add this to a must do list soon!!

  5. Mmmmm. Looks good. My family has a traditional seafood chowder recipe that we have every Christmas Eve. This looks really great - love scallops!

  6. That looks absolutely delicious! Thanks for the recipe, Martha! :)

  7. I am eager to try this recipe, Martha, even though my favorite chowder is Rhode Island. I actually got the George's Restaurant Rhode Island Chowder recipe to use in one of my books (well, they claim it's close--wouldn't admit to it being the one they use, but you know . . .). Do you have a source for fish stock or do you make your own?