Second Annual Chowder Cook Off winners
By FORREST PADDOCK
than 850 people voted for their favorite among the nine entries at the
second annual Chowder Cook at the Day at the Docks on Saturday, Sept.
When I awoke on Saturday, Sept. 15, the first thing that crossed my
mind was soup. Not just any soup, but a steaming bowl of clams,
potatoes, and onions in a clear broth flavored with bacon drippings,
cracked pepper, and maybe a touch of Texas Pete. I was thinking about
classic Hatteras-style clam chowder.
It was my lucky day. Saturday was the Second Annual Hatteras Island
Chowder Cook Off held at the Day at the Docks festival in Hatteras
village. Nine of the island’s best chowder cooks faced off in a
light-hearted contest to find the best chowder on Hatteras. Eight of
the entries came from area restaurants or businesses and one from a
local cook, Todd Ballance. The day was marred by clouds and scattered
showers, but that could not dampen the spirits of the contestants or
tasters in search of their favorite chowder.
More often than not when people discuss chowder, only two styles get
any attention -- Manhattan-style clam chowder has lots of crushed
tomatoes and maybe a few peppers and New England-style clam chowder,
which is traditionally finished with cream and a touch of sherry. Much
like an independent political party, Hatteras-style clam chowder rarely
receives its due time in the spotlight.
Classic Hatteras-style clam chowder is a soup born of necessity. Fresh
clams raked from the shallows of the Pamlico Sound simmered with
vegetables from the garden and store-bought pantry staples such as salt
pork, potatoes, and onions. It’s a perfect example of
soul-nourishing comfort food.
The Chowder Cook Off was held between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Day at
the Docks. With the help of the volunteers from the Hatteras Island
Cancer Foundation, the event went off without a hitch. For a donation,
anyone attending the festival could taste all the chowders and cast a
vote for the favorite. For most of the afternoon, a line stretched from
the entrance to the tent around to the end of the dock at the Village
Marina. Even though they had to wait, the people in the crowd had
smiling faces and were eager to meet the contestants while tasting
There were three examples of Hatteras style chowder from Todd Balance,
Risky Business Seafood, and Coastal Blue respectively. The rest of the
chowders were all based on New England-style chowder. More than 850
people voted for their favorite chowder. The winners were announced at
4:30 on the main stage.
Diamond Shoals Restaurant came in first place with Keith Gray’s
New England-style clam chowder. Second place went to Sherry
Willis and Shrimp Shack’s creamy seafood chowder, and in third
place was the Mad Crabber’s Thai-Style fish chowder.
The winners all received gift baskets from The Salty Gourmet and a
plaque they will be able to hang in their restaurants, not to mention
bragging rights until next year.
RISKY BUSINESS HATTERAS-STYLE CLAM CHOWDER
4 cups of shucked clams and juice (about 24 chowder clams)
3 cups of diced potatoes
2 cups diced onions
1 cup of water
6 pieces of bacon, fried and grease rendered
Chop clams and drain
juice and save it. In a large pot, add waters, clam juice, potatoes,
onions and grease. Bring to a boil until potatoes are tender
crisp. Add chopped clams and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serves about 6.
MAD CRABBER’S THAI FISH CHOWDER
1 ¼ pounds fresh cobia fillets (or any firm white fish)
3 jumbo sea scallops, chopped
2 stalks of lemon grass
3 ounces of butter
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ounce minced ginger
¼ bunch chopped cilantro
¼ bunch chopped parsley
1 ounce honey
1 can coconut milk
Juice from one lime
Zest from one lime
1 quart half and half
Juice from one lemon
Zest from one lemon
½ tablespoon red curry paste – or more to increase the heat
10 dashes fish sauce
½ cup minced carrots
¼ cup minced celery
½ cup minced red onion
3 cups lobster stock
1 cup chicken stock
5 ounces blonde roux
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ounce peanut oil
In a sauce pan, take both
the stocks and bring to a simmer. Add the lemon grass and reduce
heat. Steep for 30 minutes, then remove the lemon grass.
Set the stock aside.
In a pan, heat the oil and season and blacken both the scallops and the fish. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
In a pot big enough to
hold all the soup, melt 3 ounces of butter. Add carrots, celery,
onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook over medium heat for 7
minutes. Add the red curry paste and cook for an additional
minute. Stir in the roux. Slowly add all of the stock to
the pot, as well as the lemon and lime juices. Slowly add the
half and half. Bring back to a simmer and stir in the lemon and
lime zests and fish sauce. Let this cook for 30 minutes.
Add the scallops, fish, cilantro, and parsley. Simmer for 5
minutes. Finally, stir in the coconut milk and honey. Use chopped blackened fish and chives for garnish.
Serves 8 to 10.
(Forrest Paddock and his wife Jennifer are the owners of The Salty
Gourmet at the Beacon Shops on Highway 12 in Hatteras village.)