You say Manhattan. . .I say Minorcan

March 10th, 2009

There has been a long standing debate over Manhattan and New England clam chowders. Some love the creaminess of New England chowder and others are convinced that the tomato based chowder is the only way to go. There is another kind of chowder known only to a small segment of the population – known only to St. Augustine Florida in fact. The key to this version of chowder is the datil pepper which is grown exclusively in St. Augustine.

A group of Minorcans were brought to Florida in 1768 from their native Island of Minorca, off the coast of Spain to work the indigo plantation in New Smyrna Beach. They suffered great hardship for nine long years under the cruelty of the plantation owner and finally escaped to St. Augustine in 1777. They had brought their own spices, seeds, and cooking traditions with them and when they were free to plant their own gardens with the datil peppers, and fish the ocean waters, Minorcan clam chowder was born.
The datil pepper is a little bigger than a jalapeno pepper and is hotter, but not as hot as a habenero pepper. You can substitute any pepper you want in the recipe but you can also order datil products here . The jar of pickled datil peppers that I used was from a local market that is not set up for delivery out of state.

I served my Minorcan Chowder with the most remarkable rosemary flatbread I have ever eaten. It was easy to put together and bake and tasted like a homemade cracker – crisp and herby. If you make nothing else from this post you have to try this recipe. It came originally from Gourmet, but I saw it on the Smitten Kitchen website. Thank you, Deb. It was easy to handle, which was a surprise to me because the directions have you rolling it thinly on parchment paper and then transferring it to a hot baking pan. Yeah, sure. Well it worked!
Added note here. I just re-read the recipe on Deb’s blog and you are supposed to leave the dough on the parchment paper when you put it on the baking sheet. I didn’t do that because parchment paper is good only to 400 degrees, or so I thought, and this bakes at 450. It lifts easily from the parchment paper if you want to place it directly on the baking sheet.

There are many recipes for Minorcan Clam Chowder and I combined ideas from several of them. Hope you agree that Minorcan Clam Chowder is a contender in the ongoing debate over the best chowder in the world. What is your favorite chowder?

1 Qt. chopped clams with juice (or 3 cans chopped clams with juice)
4 slices bacon, diced
3 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
3 datil peppers, seeded and chopped ( This was enough for a medium heat)
1 28 0z can of diced tomatoes
1 14 0z can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 pound shrimp, cut in halves

Fry bacon until crisp in dutch oven. Remove to drain. Saute vegetables in bacon drippings until tender. Add datil peppers, both cans of tomatoes, chicken broth and clams with juices to pot and simmer until potatoes are tender. You may have to add a little water to thin chowder. Stir in shrimp near end of cooking time. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkling of bacon.

Printable recipe – Crispy Rosemary Flatbreads
Printable recipe – Minorcan Clam Chowder

9 responses to “You say Manhattan. . .I say Minorcan”

  1. My husband loves NE Clam chowder…I am not a clam fan, but that flatbread sounds great! I am going to try that!

  2. We love chowder in our house but guess we are partial to the NE cream one although we like Manhattan also. The shrimp that you included just makes it even better.
    The datil peppers are interesting – always fun to know about new things. I’m not much of a baker but it looks like even I could make the rosemary flat bread. Thanks Deb. I’m headed to your site now.

  3. Penny says:

    Penny, The bread is good.

    Sam, Thanks – I spelled Manhattan wrong. Operating on too little sleep. Anyone can make this bread. I was surprised how easy it was.

  4. What an interesting story about the peppers; I haven’t heard of them before. I think I am more attraced to the Manahattan chowder than the NE chowder.

    I would love to try the bread, I am just starting to get my sea legs on with baking…so I may get brave and try it.

  5. Aggie says:

    I live not far from St Augustine or New Smyrna Beach! I always see these Datils, but I’ve never cooked with them!

    I am more of a Manhattan chowder fan myself, your soup looks delicious!!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! 😉

  6. Penny says:

    Katherine, Baking is not my forte either, but trust me, these are easy. You may want to flour the dough before you roll. Would love feedback from any of you who try these.

    Aggie, I am in Palm Coast until early April and then we head back to Lake Lure. Where are you? Thanks for visiting. All of you.

  7. Both sound great, Penny. Must find me some datils!! And the bread?? Definitely doing that…. I love knowing the background of ingredients, and putting a new authentic twist on an old food. Thanks.

  8. Penny says:

    Sharon, FYI – I used “fresh” baking powder in the rosemary bread. Yep, threw away my old soda and baking powder and bought new. Thanks for the tip.

  9. Penny, this chowder sounds & looks unbelievably delicious. Interesting history behind it, as well. Just goes to show, local ingredients sometimes make the best dish.

    Your rosemary flatbread is amazing and so easy to make. Great post and I am definitely bookmarking for a weekend lunch. Many thanks…

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