Who doesn’t like a comforting clam chowder? A warm and smooth soup filled with clams and mussel meat. This version of chowder is made with white wine, saffron, salicornia salt and some extra mussel meat and a bechamel base. This clam chowder is nothing complicated to make nor too long and taste fantastic, a bite into the ocean. The only challenge is to make sure to clean up the clams good and keep the sand away.
Origin of Chowder
Well, I personally feel in love with chowder in Ireland, I thought this thick soup, they have all over in Ireland, was just a surprisingly comforting seafood concoction of theirs but it’s not.The origin of chowder is going back in the 16th – 17th century along the northern Atlantic coast of France and also in England, around Cornwall. It was a fisherman’s comfort food and usually would contain fish, biscuits and salted pork. Then being transformed in America into a Clam Chowder, probably influenced by the Natives who loved to eat clams and oysters, the colonies got the message and started eating clams and oysters into their soup… New-England clam chowder was born. But so many versions are out there, some thick others thin, some with tomatoes and other bacon, etc. But for now, I’ll stick to what I fell for back in Ireland, a thick, white, smooth and meaty seafood stew style. I keep the usual, potato cubes in there and replaced the onion for a softer leek. Slightly different clam chowder made to my own taste and tried the best I could reproduce the one I had in Ireland.
Clam Chowder specifics
The first step of this smooth chowder is to keep those beauties; the clams alive in the fridge. When you arrive home, to make sure they are breathing; take them out of the plastic bag. Cover the bowl they are in with a wet kitchen towel and keep in the back of the fridge. Then if they are full of sand you’ll have to let them soak in salty water, but if you get the hard shell ones you don’t have to. The beginning of this chowder is to open them up, simply add them to a pot with the white wine and a laurel leave and cover, bring to a boil and let cook about 5 minutes until they are all open. Discard the closed ones and pass the leftover clam juice/wine through a cheesecloth or fine sieve to pick up the leftover of sand.
The second step would be to cut finely all those veggies and cook them in the butter until tender and then add the flour and cook an extra minute. This roux, it’s called, will make the soup magically thick, which I believe is my favorite texture for chowders (thicker than soup). Important not to overheat as soon as the milk and cream is in, to prevent it from burning. So keep the heat low and let gently simmer to mix all those flavors slowly to perfection.
The salicorne salt is an optional ingredient, since it’s not such a common salt. But if you do have some, it’s time to use it. It goes to perfection with this clam chowder giving it an extra marine flair. For those who don’t know salicornia, it’s a small seasonal herb which grows next to saline water on beaches. It gives soups an extra sea flair. If you don’t have salicornia simply use some sea salt to season you chowder. The last but not the least spice of this soup is the famous saffron, which gives a nice touch to this chowder, and also a yellowish color. Before we start, don’t be scared of the list of ingredients, it’s a long one, but it’s easy and tasty you’ll see.
So let’s make this clam chowder!
Makes 6 portions | Difficulty level: low | Preparation time: 30 minutes
- 350g of hard shell clams
- 150g of mussel meat (frozen)
- 400ml of milk
- 400ml of cream
- 300ml of fish stock
- 150ml of white wine
- 2 leeks cut finely
- 2 carrots cut into small dices
- 1 potato cut into small dices
- 40g butter
- 40g flour
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- saffron (1 pinch)
- 1 tsp salicornia salt
- flat leaves parsley
- 1 laurel leaf
- shrimps (big ones for topping)*optional
- pepper, salt
- Add the hard shell clams to a small pot with the wine and laurel leaf, cover, bring to boil, cook 5 minutes until the shells open up
- Conserve the wine from the clams and pass through a cheesecloth or sieve to pick up the possible sand left and reserve the clams
- Cook the diced potato in a small pot until tender, reserve
- In a big pot, add the carrot, leeks, garlic and butter and cook until tender, 5 minutes
- Add the flour and a touch more butter and cook an extra minute medium high heat
- Add the clam juice leftover, the milk, fish stock, mussels, cream, saffron, salicornia salt and potato, mix well
- Let it simmer for 10 minutes
- Cook the shrimps in a pan and some oil for 5 minutes, medium high heat
- Add the soup, clams, shrimps and parsley