Winter is still here, guys! I keep telling it to go away, and the seasonally grey skies and periodic bursts of snow are still around. Winter doesn’t care what I think. This, of course, means that I’ve found myself making even more soup than usual. Last week, I cooked homemade seafood broth, and my soup-obsessed brain decided it was time to make seafood stew. My absolute favorite seafood soup is Clam Chowder (the creamy New England kind). It’s the wonderful mixture of two food worlds– creamy and hearty potato soup, and flavorful seafood. In short, it’s amazing.
This soup starts out like potato soup- you saute onions with herbs and bay leaves, add wine, add broth, and let it cook. Just like when I make potato soup, I like to thicken it by scooping out about half of the chunky potatoes with a little bit of broth, and blending it in an immersion blender cup or stand blender. Next, I add celery and milk or cream. (Avoid adding the celery before using the blender. It turns the soup green, and that’s not necessarily a good look).
The difference for clam chowder is, obviously, the addition of clams. Also, ideally your broth would be fish stock or broth, which you can easily make yourself. Begin by hoarding shellfish scraps and fish bones in your freezer (it’s not weird– it’s resourceful!). When you’ve filled up about one quart-sized freezer bag with shrimp shells, lobster shells, fish bones etc, you’re ready. Use the recipe for homemade vegetable broth, and add the seafood scraps while you’re sauteing the celery and carrots. Then, apologize to your upstairs neighbor for making their apartment smell like a fishery (sorry neighbors!). They’ll understand when they taste the soup. If you don’t feel like hoarding shellfish scraps fits into your current lifestyle, you can either buy pre-made seafood stock or add some clam juice to vegetable or chicken broth (clam juice should be next to the tinned clams at the grocery store).
To use fresh clams in this recipe, substitute one and a half pounds of cleaned clams for the tinned ones. Unfortunately, I’m landlocked, and sometimes I can’t find fresh clams (although apparently if I plan ahead, they can be ordered). This recipe uses tinned clams that can be kept on hand for whenever you’re feeling that clam chowder urge. I mixed some whole clams with some chopped– use whichever you prefer.
The finishing touch to this clam chowder is the smoked oysters. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s, and they are delicious enough to eat straight out of the tin. If you’ve never tried oysters, and think they look… less than appealing… using them in a soup is a great place to start. The smoked flavor adds a lot of dimension to this soup, and makes this clam chowder irresistible.
Looking for more ways to warm up? Try more soup:
Clam Chowder with Smoked Oysters
- 1 TB butter or olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2-3 sprigs thyme, plus more to season
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups fish stock, OR 3 cups vegetable broth and 1 cup clam juice
- 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced (or sub 4-5 small potatoes)
- 1 cup heavy cream (or sub milk for a lighter chowder)
- 2-3 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 tin chopped clams (about 6oz)
- 1 tin whole clams (about 10oz)
- 1 tin smoked oysters, drained from oil (about 3oz)
- 2 tsp salt, to taste
- French bread, to serve with
Heat butter in pan on medium, then add onion, thyme, and bay leaves. Sauté until onions have softened, and add wine. Allow wine to cook about 3 minutes on medium. Add fish stock (or vegetable broth and clam juice) and diced potatoes. Bring soup to a boil, and then allow to simmer about 20 minutes.
While soup is simmering, sauté celery in a small pan and set aside. After potatoes have softened, ladle about half the potatoes into a blender or immersion blender cup. Pour puree back into the soup pot, and add milk, celery, clams, and oysters.
Simmer for 5-10 more minutes, and season to taste with salt and thyme. Serve hot with bread.
Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 3 days.
Recipe loosely adapted from: Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child