While taco trucks and pulled-pork-everything deliciously invade our wide brown land, the one American food staple that hasn’t quite infiltrated our Aussie palate is chowder. For the uninitiated, a chowder is a seafood or vegetable stew made with a cream or milk base, traditionally served with salted crackers, and quintessentially American.
The most common variety in the States is clam chowder, mostly cooked with canned clams. We’re not big on clams in Australia – we mainly use clams in a spaghetti vongole – but as we are a sea-hugging nation, you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant serving these delicious little morsels from a tin.
This week’s recipe inspiration has come from the stunning teal Le Creuset kitchenware, which took me backto travelling the west coast of America, eating a big bowl by the water on San Francisco’s Pier 39. In the San Fran incarnation, the chowder is served in a whole sourdough bowl. The bread soaks up the stew, and the potatoes and pancetta provide delicious contrast. My take on this recipe isn’t overly strong with the seafood flavour and is the perfect dish to take us into these rainy Autumn days.
Crab + Clam Chowder
1 kg clams, cleaned (available from most fish shops; I used frozen NZ clams)
250 g cooked crab meat (fresh, frozen or canned is fine)
1 tbs butter
150 g good quality pancetta (available from the deli, cut into chunky cubes)
2 cups chopped brown onions
1 tbs plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 kg potatoes, peeled and diced
1 to 2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1 tsp paprika, and a dash of cayenne pepper
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 ½ cups corn kernels (frozen is fine)
1 cup thickened cream
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 large round sourdough loaf
Steam the clams. Place in a large pot and add about a half-inch of water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Let the clams steam until they all open up, 5 to 10 minutes. The steaming water may foam up, so watch so it doesn’t overflow the pot. Use a slotted spoon to remove the clams from the pot to a bowl. Strain the remaining clam steaming stock through a fine mesh sieve to catch any grit, and reserve. You should have 2 to 3 cups of clam stock. Separate the clams from the clam shells. Discard the shells. Roughly chop the cooked clams.
Add the chopped onion and butter to the a thick bottomed pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the onions and stir until everything is coated with the flour. Let the flour cook for a minute or two. Slowly add the white wine to the pot, stirring after each addition.
Add potatoes to the pot. Add 2 to 3 cups of the strained clam stock and a cup of water. The stock should cover the potatoes. If not, add a little more, either water or clam cooking liquid. Add the bay leaf, thyme, black pepper, and spices. Heat to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, then add the corn (if using) and cook for 5 minutes more, or until the potatoes are cooked through.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat a cup of cream in a small saucepan until steamy. When the potatoes are tender, add the chopped clams and the crab, and turn off the heat of the soup. Slowly stir in the heated cream. Stir in the fresh parsley.
To serve, cut open the sourdough loaf removing the filling and the ‘lid’. Pour in the clam chowder and sprinkle some more parsley and cooked pancetta on top.
Then everyone can tuck in, dip the leftover bread and enjoy this hearty American dish!
As seen on the 'Temple and Webster - Dish of the Day' blog