This Creamy Seafood Chowder variation is for a grown-up with a fancy palate; it features a base of white wine-infused cream with saffron, clams, mussel meat, Salicornia salt, and a last touch of colour: shrimp.
Who doesn’t like a comforting Creamy Seafood Chowder? A warm and smooth soup filled with clams and mussels and a unique salt that tastes like the sea. This version of chowder is made with clams, mussel meat, white wine, saffron, and Salicornia salt on a cream base. This clam chowder is nothing complicated to make nor too long and tastes fantastic, a bite into the ocean. The only challenge is to clean up the sand from the clams.
Origin of Chowder
Well, I fell in love with chowder in Ireland; I thought this thick soup they have all over Ireland was just a surprisingly comforting seafood concoction of theirs, but surprisingly, it’s not. Chowder originated 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 soups. New England clam chowder was born! But so many versions are out there, some thicker than others, some with tomatoes, others with bacon, and so on and on.
For now, I’ll stick to what I fell for, a thick Creamy Seafood Chowder Irish style with a twist. I kept the usual potato cubes and replaced the onion with a softer leek. Slightly different clam chowder made with a magical ingredient called Salicornia Salt.
How to Care for Clams
The first step of this smooth chowder is to keep those beauties, the clams, alive in the fridge. When you arrive home, take them out of the plastic bag to ensure they are breathing. Cover the bowl they are in with a wet kitchen towel and keep it 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.
This chowder begins by opening the clams in a pot of simmering white wine and a bay leaf, covering it for about 5 minutes until most are open. Discard the closed ones and pass the leftover clam juice/wine through a cheesecloth or fine sieve to pick up the excess sand. This juice is essential! It’s where all the flavour of the clams lies!
The second step would be to cut finely all those veggies and cook them in butter until tender, and then add the flour and cook an extra minute. This roux technique will make the Creamy Seafood Chowder magically thick, my favourite texture for chowders. It is essential not to overheat as soon as the milk and cream are in; no more bubbles are allowed from this point on. So keep the heat low and let it gently simmer or fume to mix all those flavours.
Salicornia or Green Salt
The salicorne salt, also known as glasswort, pickleweed, picklegrass, and marsh samphire, is an optional ingredient since it’s not in everyone’s pantry. But if you do have some, it’s time to use it! It goes to perfection with this clam chowder, giving it this extra marine flair. For those who don’t know Salicornia, it’s a small seasonal herb which grows next to saline water on beaches from North America, Europe, South Africa and Central Asia, so a bit everywhere. It gives soups a unique sea flair.
If you don’t have Salicornia, use sea salt to season your chowder. The famous saffron is this soup’s last but not most minor spice, which gives this chowder a pleasant aroma.
Creamy Seafood Chowder
- 350 g clams
- 150 g mussel meat (frozen)
- 400 ml milk
- 400 ml cream
- 300 ml fish stock or fumet
- 150 ml white wine
- 2 leeks (finely chopped)
- 2 carrots (diced)
- 1 potato (diced)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 5 saffron threads (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp Salicornia Salt (or Herbs)
- 4 prawns (with tail)
- white pepper (or black)
- Add the clams to a small pot of simmering wine with a bay leaf, cover, and cook for 5 minutes until the shells open up.
- Reserve the clams.
- Conserve the liquid from the clams by passing through a cheesecloth or meshed sieve to pick up the possible leftover sand.
- Cook the diced potato in a small pot of boiling water until tender, reserve
- Add the carrot, leeks and half the butter in a big pot and cook until tender, for 5 minutes.
- Add the flour and the leftover butter and cook an extra minute at medium-high heat.
- Add the milk and cream and mix until thicker.
- Add the remaining ingredients (except the clams and toppings) and let simmer (really low) for 10 minutes.
- Grill the prawns in a pan with oil for 5 minutes at medium-high heat.
- Serve the chowder with clams, a prawn and fresh parsley.