I am a food hoarder (def·i·ni·tion – a food obsessed person who can’t resist purchasing any cool/ interesting or on-sale ingredient to create a dish at a later date). I collect food stuffs then begin the process of R&D to create a killer dish with said ingredients. Either I peruse my collection of cookbooks or pull up any of my many on-line go-to sites for inspiration.
Over the course of many years of holidaying along the Pacific Coast, I’ve pursued the the “ultimate bowl of clam or seafood chowder. New England style of course when mentioning the clam version. That other, Manhattan style chowder is an aberration. Many bowls have been consumed through Washington, Oregon and California as well as in our own neck of the woods, searching out the ultimate. I will continue to do this forever as it’s one of those truly soul comforting dishes. Unless of course you’re allergic to seafood…
To this date, Pike Place Chowder in Seattle is the hands down winner over multiple tries. When it’s safe to travel again, GO! Here in Gibsons I would put (and have in a previous post) Grammas Seafood Chowder in my top 3 or 5 ever.
Before I go further, let’s define what makes a good or great chowder. Ample amounts of the fishy stuff – fresh as possible, seasoning, sometimes served in bowls of sourdough bread (love that) and very importantly in my books, thickness. Use too much flour and you have something more suited to putting up wallpaper. Use too much cream and you’re eating a bowl of Nivea. It’s about finding the right balance.
After amassing one of those hoards of seafood, I set out to try my hand at a chowder. I’ve made gallons of soup over the years and would modestly say it’s one of my strengths in the kitchen. But never before had I given chowder a shot until I found this recipe from Bon Appetit’. They are and have been over the years a great source of higher level food ideas. I omitted the lobster as the soup is already a bit premium on the ingredients. But I did include scallops, haddock, prawns, mussels and clams plus a crusty baguette to mop up with. This chowder goes into my top 5 I’ve eaten to this point in my life. Superb! One of the best things about this recipe? IT”S EASY. The key items that set this apart are the Old Bay Seasoning, Sherry, pepper and half and half. If you’re not going to include these, don’t bother making the soup.
I’ll thank my neighbourhood merchants “The Fishmarket, IGA and Crazy Reds Breads for providing everything needed to complete this dish.
MAKES ABOUT 8 LITRES
2Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1large onion, finely chopped
1celery stalk, finely chopped
1Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more
1Tbsp. dry sherry
2½cups clam juice (nectar), divided
2cups fish or seafood stock or broth
1lb. potatoes (any kind), peeled,cut into ½” pieces
1¼lb. mixed white fish (such as swordfish and/or sea bass) and shellfish (such as peeled, deveined shrimp), cut into ½” pieces
8oz. cooked lobster meat, cut into cubes (optional)
1Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Cook onion and celery, stirring often, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Mix in Old Bay and 1 tsp. pepper; cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add sherry; cook, stirring occasionally, until alcohol has cooked off, about 1 minute. Add ½ cup clam juice; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft, about 5 minutes. Add stock and remaining 2 cups clam juice and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and simmer, uncovered, adjusting heat as needed, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add fish and shellfish and cook, stirring gently, just until mixture returns to a simmer, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lobster meat if using.
While the potatoes are simmering, melt remaining 1 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until light blond in color, about 1 minute. Whisk in half-and-half and 1 cup chowder broth (skimmed off the top) and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Cook, still whisking, until thickened and creamy.
Stir half-and-half mixture into chowder ; return to medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring gently. Remove from heat; Taste and season with salt and more pepper if needed. None for me. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread.