Chase Away the Chill with Chowder – Quick New England Style Clam Chowder
It’s cold and grey outside. You are craving something warm and comforting for dinner. Why not chowder? Sailors ate it to fight off the cold and damp of the sea, so it’s the perfect meal to warm you on a dark winter’s day.
Traditionally, chowder refers to a thick, chunky seafood soup. The name comes from the French dish called chaudrée (sometimes spelt chauderée) which is a sort of thick fish soup from the coastal regions of France, or chaudiere a caldron (like a big dutch oven) in which fishermen made their stews fresh from the sea. Now the term is also used to describe any thick rich soup containing chunks of food.
I’m teaching a class at PCC this month called Chowderhound. In it I show you how to make four great chowders and a hearty salad to round out the meal. The recipes include: Manhattan Style Clam Chowder, Hearty Potato Chowder, Turkey Chowder with Wild Rice, Mushrooms and Bacon and Salmon Chowder. If you are in Seattle, join me!
In the meantime, here’s a wonderful recipe for quick New England Style Clam Chowder to get you started!
Quick Clam Chowder
This is a quick version of the classic. No need to scrub clam shells to enjoy this hearty chowder.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 celery stalks, minced
1 small onion, minced
3 cups fish stock or clam juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 tablespoons water
1 cup heavy cream
1 10-ounce cans baby clams
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add celery and onion. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Then stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add broth or bottled clam juice, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring chowder base to a simmer; cook until potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water to form a slurry. Stir slurry into chowder base; return to a boil to thicken.
Add the heavy cream, reduce heat to low and warm the cream for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove chowder from heat. Discard bay leaf. Stir in clams. Season with salt and pepper. Serve
Note: Since the clams are already cooked, it is best to add them just before serving so they don’t become chewy from over cooking.