If you follow me on Instagram, then you probably saw the picture of me downing a bottle of clam juice. (If you don’t follow me there, you should 😉 To be clear, I wasn’t actually drinking the juice, I mean ewwww!!, but it was National Clam Chowder Day and I had every intention of making a large pot of traditional New England chowder until life got in the way and it never happened. Alas, I’ve made it now and to tell the truth, it’s the first time I’ve ever made the creamy, dairy-based version; I usually make Manhattan clam chowder. Which, come to think of it, really isn’t very chowdery.
With Lenten season upon us, clam chowder is a perfect Friday-night meal—or any-night meal for that matter.
If you Google clam chowder recipes, you will be overwhelmed with the variations … some use heavy cream, some ½ and ½, some instant potato flakes as a thickening agent, others cornstarch or flour … some use red potatoes, some Yukon gold … there are so, so, so many versions it’s hard to decide which one to cook. So for this recipe, I combined the things I like, removed what I don’t, and came up with a super delicious chowder that is so good I was genuinely surprised. It’s thick and creamy but rest assured not so much that it sticks to the spoon like frosting—the secret? Fat-free half and half, which in theory really isn’t half and half … because isn’t half and half made from equal parts cream and milk? How can cream can be fat-free, am I right??! But hey, while I would ever use it in my coffee, it works great for cream-based soups and chowders. Here’s my version:
New England Clam Chowder
2 stalks celery, chopped
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 head garlic, minced
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
10 red potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups water, (approximately)
1 8oz. jar clam juice (note, if you use fresh clams, preserve the water used to cook them in, and use that instead of clam juice)
1 to 1 ½ cup fat-free half and half
1 bay leaf
2 cups clams, or two 8 ounce cans
8-10 slices of bacon
In a large Dutch oven, saute celery, onion and garlic in butter and olive oil for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, clam juice, and just enough water to cover potatoes, cook on med-high for 15 minutes. Remove 1 cup and set aside to cool for 5 minutes, then using an emulsion blender (if you have one otherwise use a regular blender) blend some of the soup, but not all. Add half and half, bay leaf, clams, pepper, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine remaining the removed liquid with ⅓ cup flour, stir and let sit. In a separate pan, cook bacon until crisp, remove, drain fat, and chop. Set aside.
Add flour mixture to Dutch oven, stir well and bring just to a boil for 30 seconds, stirring the mixture so it’s evenly distributed. Remove bay leaf and serve in bowl with bacon sprinkled on top. Add some chopped dill or green onions and or crackers or crusty bread. Enjoy!
A note about my recipes … most of what I cook isn’t a precise science. It’s look, taste and feel. And I encourage you to cook the same way. Add a little more of this, or a little less of that … and pay attention … and before long you’ll be a wiz at cooking seafood.
Coming up NEXT on the blog … crab, CRAB, all-things crab and a visit to one of the world’s premier spa destinations. Want more from The Midwest Mermaid? Be sure to follow along here, and on Instagram for all the latest in seafood news and chews | @shaunanosler
DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then. xoxox