Whether your chowder is a New England-style white clam chowder, a French bouillabaisse with shrimp and halibut or a salmon chowder with chunks of salmon and potatoes, it will be hearty and thick enough to serve as the main course for your dinner, with other foods served to add balance. Choose side dishes that contrast in texture or taste, that provide complementary flavors and that help the meal reach a nutritional balance.
First Course First
While the chowder simmers on the stove, there's time to sit down to a small, first course if you'd like. A cool, fresh salad whets your appetite for the hot and hearty soup, but a cooked first course that contrasts with the soup in temperature and flavor also works. For instance, if you have a curried shrimp and potato chowder, serve warm or room-temperature broiled or sauteed asparagus, fennel or leeks with a warm tomato vinaigrette.
Eat Your Veggies
Seafood chowders may not always contain enough vegetables to give you a well rounded meal. Present carrot sticks or red pepper strips that contrast in color to a milk-based chowder, arranged like a bouquet in a kitchen glass. If your chowder doesn't already contain potatoes, serve roasted potato wedges or oven-roasted french fries. Or, pair a rich creme-based chowder with a green salad dressed with vinaigrette to cut the richness.
Any sort of bread or crackers provide starch to round out a seafood chowder meal. For a flavorful tomato-based bouillabaisse or cioppino, a crusty French bread loaf makes it easy to sop up the chowder's liquid. For a Southern-style corn and okra chowder, serve corn bread, corn fritters or biscuits. For a New Orleans gumbo chowder with shrimp and oysters, serve garlic bread for flavor that will stand up to the spicy chowder.
To Top It Off
Since seafood chowders are, by definition, filled with chunks of fish and other ingredients, a smooth pudding or custard for dessert provides a nice change of texture to the meal. If the chowder is a light, broth-based one instead of a rich milk-and potato-based chowder, a more substantial dessert works well, such as an apple and walnut cake, a pumpkin pie or a chocolate pudding cake.
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Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.