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Oct 15, 2019 11:24 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

A Clam Chowder Master Reveals His Secrets

Oct 15, 2019 1:50 PM


In the late 1970s, Paul Roman’s clam chowder — “Ms. Roman’s Long Island Clam Chowder,” named after his mother, Stephanie — was the number one selling soup at Fraunces Tavern on the corner of Pearl Street and Broad Street in Manhattan.

Now, Mr. Roman is a local clam chowder contest champion. He’s won the East Hampton Town Trustees clam chowder contest four times — including the one on Sunday — in addition to other contests across the East End.

Mr. Roman grew up in Babylon, often fishing off his father’s boat, the Captree Queen — an earlier one, the Captain George Roman, eventually became the first Lazy Bones out of Montauk — out of Captree State Park in Bay Shore, and clamming along the shoreline.

His father, Capt. George Roman, taught him how to fish and clam, but his mother taught him how to make chowder.

Now, Mr. Roman is a chef at the Silver Lining Diner in Southampton and caters with Hampton Clambake.

“The one that takes the win is my New England,” Mr. Roman said, adding that his mother used to make a “Bonac chowder,” which is more broth-based and has more vegetables — carrots, tomatoes, celery, with a red tint to it — but that people prefer his creamy New England-style soup.

For the Trustees’ chowder competition at the Largest Clam Contest on Sunday, Mr. Roman entered his New England- and Bonac-style chowders. He said one of the judges said that in his opinion the two soups tied for first place. Officially, it was the New England that took home the prize.

What’s the secret to a first-place chowder?

“The clams are the secret,” Mr. Roman said over the phone on Monday morning. “You gotta start with the right clam.”

Mr. Roman clams locally, but for his chowder, he buys clams from Bryan Gosman, and he always asks for clams from a digging area on the North Fork, normally Mattituck. When it comes to buying clams from a local seafood shop, there is a tag that says where the clams were dug.

Mr. Roman explained that the North Fork sand is nice and clean. He said the clam meat is perfectly soft when it’s cooked, adding that those clams make a “fabulous broth.”

“As soon as they pop open, I take them out. Overcooking ‘em makes them tough,” he said.

Part of the trick is cleaning them well before cooking, he said, because the clams have sand and muck from seaweed.

“My mother always said whoever ate the most clams, ate the most sand,” Mr. Roman said with a chuckle.

As for ingredients, Mr. Roman said he keeps it minimal, not using celery as most cooks do. He starts with potatoes — always peeled — onions, salt, pepper, parsley and additional herbs. He added that he doesn’t make the chowder too thick.

“I try to keep my chowder real traditional,” Mr. Roman said, adding that over the years, as he has been a judge in contests, he’s noticed a number of people who try to add new ingredients, like pumpkin or corn.

“Some people get too heavy, and make it too thick,” said Mr. Roman, who was a judge at the Montauk Chamber of Commerce Fall Festival chowder competition on Saturday.

He said the East Hampton Town Trustees contest is a small competition that anyone can enter; participants just need to bring one quart of their finest chowder, whether creamy New England or red Manhattan.

Mr. Roman isn’t stopping with his Sunday victory. This Saturday, October 19, he’ll enter his legendary New England clam chowder at the East Hampton Historical Farm Museum’s contest. Last year, he swept 20 or more competitors.

“I won the People’s Choice and the Judge’s Choice,” Mr. Roman said.

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love paul roman and his chowder
By phant (1), montauk on Oct 17, 19 3:38 PM