Clam chowder has always seemed massively appealing and a little off-putting at the same time to me. That was until I got the chance to try it on a trip to Florida – or rather, a variation of it.
It turns out that the clam chowder recipe varies from region to region. Despite being in Florida the chowder I ate, as best I can tell, was New England clam chowder and it was delicious.
I recently went hunting for the recipe and that’s how I came across all the different regional variations – eight, in fact, and that’s only the ones listed on Wikipedia!
What is clam chowder?
In a nutshell it’s a broth-based soup containing clams, and a variety of other ingredients depending on your location (or preference!).
I wanted to give you the recipe for three of my favourites, starting with the New England version. I hope you try them and enjoy as much as I do.
New England Clam Chowder
To me this is the most ‘traditional’ clam chowder and it is almost certainly the one I had in Florida.
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 celery stalks trimmed, quartered and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 2 cups of vegetable stock
- 2 (10-ounce) cans chopped clams in juice
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- 2 bay leaves
- 1lb of potatoes, cut into 1/2- inch cubes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Melt the butter in a large pan on a medium-high heat.
- Add the chopped onion, celery and soften, stirring all the time.
- Stir in the flour, making sure it distributes evenly and there are no lumps.
- Add the vegetable stock, juice from the canned clams, cream, bay leaves and potatoes.
- Stir and bring to a simmer, stirring all the time until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- When the potatoes have softened add the clams and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook for another two minutes or so, until the clams are just beginning to firm.
- Serve with croutons or oyster crackers (on the side) and a sprinkling of chopped flat leaf parsley.
Minorcan Clam Chowder
I love this recipe because it’s so different with the addition of datil pepper, which adds a lot of heat to the dish. Use sparingly if you don’t want it too hot. Not sure why I didn’t get this in Florida – it comes from there, after all!
- 13ozs of minced clams
- 4 strips of streaky bacon
- 1 datil pepper, minced (use half a pepper if you’re heat shy), or datil hot sauce
- 1 medium onion, diced in small pieces
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 cup diced small red potatoes, peeled (2-3 total)
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon fresh garlic (1-2 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
- 2 cups fish stock
- Cut bacon into 1cm x 1cm pieces and fry in a large soup pan until just crispy. Remove and drain excess fat on paper towel, leaving cooking fat in the pan.
- Cook the onion, green peppers and carrots in the bacon fat (top up with olive oil if needed) until onions are translucent (5-10 mins).
- Stir in the can of chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and all the herbs.
- Add the minced datil pepper, clam juice and fish stock.
- Simmer on a low heat for an hour.
- Add the potatoes and cook for 20 minutes until tender.
- Add the minced clams and bacon and warm through – 5 minutes should do it.
- Taste and season accordingly.
- Serve with crusty bread or Saltine crackers.
Long Island Clam Chowder
This is a kid of mix of the above two recipes, given it has a creamy tomato base. If you like the sound of the Minorcan Clam Chowder but want a thicker consistency, this one is for you (and I suppose you could put the datil pepper in too!).
- 1 tbsp of butter
- 1 cup of chopped onions or sliced leeks
- 1 cup of chopped carrots
- 1 cup of chopped celery3 cups of potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp of dried thyme
- 10oz can chopped clams, drained, liquid reserved
- 1 lb flounder or halibut, cut in 2″ pieces
- 2 cup of milk
- 1/2 tsp of hot pepper sauce (optional)
- Melt the butter in a large soup pan on a medium heat.
- Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes.
- Stir in the potatoes, bay leaf and thyme.
- Add the juice form the tin of clams and a little water (enough to make up 3/4 of a cup total).
- Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Purée half the chowder mix and return to the pan.
- Add the fish and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Stir in the milk and clams and heat through gently – 5 minutes or so, not letting it boil.
- Add the hot pepper sauce to taste.
There you have it…three ways to cook up your own delicious clam chowder. I prefer the New England version still, but the Minorcan one is good, I think, for the winter months thanks to the heat from the datil pepper.
Which one do you prefer? Let me know!