The next few days are forecast to be the coldest of the season so far, the kind of weather that makes pipes freeze, teeth chatter, and you don’t want to be putting your tongue anywhere near a metal flag pole. But you may want to treat your tongue to some chowder, so maybe we should start with what chowder is, and stay away from what chowder is not.
As a native (northern) New Englander, to me, chowder is always a milk or cream based soup (maybe thickened with flour, maybe not) that includes cubed potatoes (and NEVER tomatoes, even though I come from the “other” side of Penobscot Bay, no matter what this web site says). You can use tomatoes and make a fine soup, like another of my favorites, Provençal fish stew, but don’t call it chowder. After the potatoes, what you call the chowder depends on what comes next; corn, clams, fish, seafood, etc.
When I make a chowder at home it’s almost always a seafood chowder; chopped clams, bay scallops, oysters, shrimp, and fish. Depending on how extravagant I’m feeling I may render out some bacon or salt pork (reserving the crispy bits for garnish) to soften the onions and create a bit of a roux with flour, and use haddock (or cod when I can get it) instead of the mish-mash of “chowder mix” at the supermarket. My version is a bit non-traditional for its use of shrimp and a combination of fish sometimes including salmon (one reason for using the West Coast chowder photo, even though it’s mainly Atlantic salmon around here), but when the weather turns arctic, a bowl of hot chowder can be just the thing to warm you up.