Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oregon Coast Clam Chowder (New & Imrpoved!)

If there's one dish I enjoy, it's a good bowl of clam chowder. We've sampled clam chowder in fine restaurants from Victoria to Monteray, and I really can honestly say that our recipe is hard to beat.  That said, my recipe owes a debt of gratitude to my own family. In fact, perhaps I should call it Eastern Washington Clam Chowder? No, I guess not.

Besides never scalding the milk, the central thing to bear in mind for this recipe is to keep experimenting and perfecting it. That's one aspect I enjoy--that each batch is slightly different than before. I usually add a one or two of a rotating list of seafood together with the clams: shrimp, crab, scallops, smoked salmon, etc. (Freshly caught seafood is particularly good, but make sure you have selected the right kind of clams if you've dug them yourself. Sadly...the Ericksons are not the best clam diggers; we buy them canned now.)

I also recommend making it correctly the first couple times before trying to concoct a healthy version. After all, this isn't a side dish, it's the meal. We almost never use real cream, for instance, but it does greatly improve the texture and flavor.  You may notice I use the word about a number of times in the recipe.  This is because either I have misplaced the precise measurements or I am encouraging some brave experimentation.  (I'll let you decide which is the case.)


about eight pounds of cut and peeled potatoes
about two cups of chicken broth
4-6 small cans of clams or 1 of the large can
3/4 to 1 stick of real butter
2 diced onions
1 diced stalk of celery
about a quart of whipping creme or half and half
four cups of whole milk
2-3 tbsp corn starch

Seasoning (to taste)

cracked pepper
dried parsley
basil (fresh preferred)
Be creative!

At the same time your boiling the potatoes in the chicken broth, begin to saute the cut onions in a skillet with some butter. Once the potatoes are sufficiently tender, remove from the heat. Cook the onions until they begin to become translucent. Just before removing from the heat, add the celery.  If the potatoes are too big, cut to smaller pieces. (You can cut them within the pot and save a little time.) Add sautéed onions to potatoes, followed by the rest of the seafood and any other desired ingredients. Don't add the milk or whipping creme yet!

Once everything has come to a gentle boil, add the milk and whipping creme last. Keep stirring and lower the heat. This prevents the milk from scalding. As the consistency will likely not be thick enough, withdraw half a cup of the liquid from the chowder and add two or three tablespoons of corn starch.  Mix well before adding to the chowder.  Bring to a boil again, stirring frequently, then remove from heat and serve hot.

Everyone (except me) in my household likes ice cold peas dropped on top of the chowder to help cool it down at serving time. I still believe that this is a great affront to the chowder gods. Consequently, you will not see peas in my chowder--unless, of course, my wife Kimberly has prepared it. :)

Suggested toppings: crumbled pepper bacon or oyster crackers.

PS.  You know what would go well with Oregon Clam chowder?  The answer is clearly...a copy of Tristan's Travels.  :)  

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