Monday, February 11, 2013

Definition: Bisque vs. Chowder

I think I'm going to have Mondays become "Definition Days" here on the blog.

Today's words are:  BISQUE and CHOWDER.

What is the difference between a bisque and a chowder? 

A seasoned shellfish puree flavored with white wine, Cognac and fresh cream, used as the basis of a soup.  The flesh of the main ingredient (crayfish, lobster, crab, etc.) is diced as for salpicon and used as a garnish.  The shells are also used to make the initial puree. 

It is thought the name is derived from Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay, but the crustaceans are certainly bis cuites "twice cooked" (by analogy to a biscuit) for they are first sautéed lightly in their shells, then simmered in wine and aromatic ingredients, before being strained, followed by the addition of cream.

In case you were wondering what "salpicon" is:
Ingredients that are diced (often very finely), then bound with sauce (in the case of vegetables, meat, poultry, game, shellfish, fish or eggs) or with syrup or cream (for a fruit salpicon).  The word comes from Spanish sal (salt) and picar (cut).

So. . . Tomato Bisque is probably a misnomer unless there's shellfish in it.  It likely should be called a Tomato Soup or Tomato Cream Soup.  I guess "bisque" just sounds fancier.

A seafood or vegetable stew (or thickened soup), often served with milk or cream and mostly eaten with saltine crackers. Chowder is usually thickened with broken up crackers, but some varieties are traditionally thickened with crushed ship biscuit. New England clam chowder, perhaps the best known chowder, is typically made with chopped clams and diced potatoes, in a mixed cream and milk base, often with a small amount of butter. Other common chowders include Manhattan clam chowder, which substitutes tomatoes for the milk and cream and typically omits potatoes; corn chowder, which uses corn instead of clams; a wide variety of fish chowders; and potato chowder, which is often made with cheese.

The origin of the term chowder is obscure. One possible source is the French word chaudière, the type of pot in which the first chowders were probably cooked. (This, if true, would be similar to the origin of casserole, a generic name for a set of main courses originally prepared in a dish called a casserole.)

Source: Larousse Gastronomique,

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