Creamy, proper, clam chowder does not come out of a can. It’s a myth. And, making creamy clam chowder is not hard. That’s also a myth. Most likely propagated by the folks who sell clam chowder in cans.
Traditionally, a true chowder must be thickened with potato, not flour. All manner of potato things work, from left over mashers, to instant potato flakes, to diced and simmered spuds. Feel free to use canned clams and their juice, but with a few fresh beauties tossed in to garnish if you wish.
[[photo: Colleen Nicholson]]
1 small onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 oz pancetta, cubed
2 celery stocks, diced
2 large Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 cup 18% cream (you can use 35% for an extra rich soup)
2 cans of clams and the juice
2 cups clam, fish, or chicken stock
1 whole smoked fish such as mackerel or herring or about 6 oz of smoked cod or haddock
left over mashed potatoes or instant potato flakes, enough to thicken the soup
¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives
½ cup medium dry sherry
sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste
tiny pinch saffron for colour and a hint of flavour
hot sauce or harissa for garnish (optional)
In a pot of boiling water, blanch the cubed potatoes, and drain. They should be fork tender, but not mushy.
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat, fry pancetta in the butter until golden. Add the onions and celery to sweat until softened but not coloured. Add the sherry and cook off the alcohol, stirring constantly. Now add the clams, broth, saffron, and taste for salt. Add pepper and if needed, a bit of salt. Reduce to low heat, and add the mashed potatoes or dry potato flakes, stirring constantly. Now add the cream, bring up to a simmer, and allow to thicken. You may need to add more potato at this point. You choose how thick or thin you like your chowder. Add the smoked fish, cubed potatoes, and chives, stir well and serve. Or, you can, at this point, drop in some live clams and mussels, and serve when they open.
You can find another of my chowder recipes - Smoky Trout Chowder - in The Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers Cookbook from Appetite.