Now is the perfect time to start a big pot Seafood Chowder on the stove while the weather is blustery. I passed this recipe on to a friend of mine (a devout non-cook) who conscripted her son to help make it. He asked me why anyone would go to such lengths as to pick tiny leaves off of fresh thyme for soup—evidently, that was one of the jobs he was assigned. I simply told him there are subtle flavors in great food and fresh herbs are part of that. I then went on to explain that is wasn’t necessary to pluck each leaf, as they come off pretty easily when rubbed backward against the stem. He wasn’t amused by the late advice.
I suppose for a twenty-something guy it would seem far easier just to open a can when the urge for chowder hits. But if you’ve ever been fortunate enough to have a bowl of chowder in Boston, you know anything poured out of a can hardly resembles it. For me, the real stuff is well worth the effort. As it goes with food and fashion—to each his own. We like to mix up the vegetables here with celery root and parsnips in place of some of the potatoes. There is little difference in flavor, but it does add fiber.
For those willing to dice a few vegetables and strip those pesky thyme leaves (tell the kids it will be fun!), this dreamy soup with clams, shrimp, and white fish is a delicious reward. Tender fish (we used Barramundi), smoky bacon, and cream deliver soup with soul and substance and may make a few uncanny converts in the process (pardon the pun). The silky cream base cradles the seafood and vegetables in a subtle herb blanket, satisfying chowder cravings to the last bread-soaked drop. We served ours with Sprouted Wheat Dinner Rolls, but crackers work for dipping too!
Are you all in for chowdah? Try this quick Salmon Dill Chowder too!
- ¾ pound bacon -- cooked, chopped
- 1 (51 ounce) large can chopped clams -- retain juice (equal to 3¾ cups clam juice and 3¾ cups chopped clams)
- ½ cup chopped green onion
- 1 small sweet yellow onion -- finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 4 medium red potatoes -- scrubbed, unpeeled, cut into ½" cubes
- 1 small celery root (about the size of a large orange) -- peeled, cut into ½" cubes
- 2 medium parsnips -- peeled, cut into ½" cubes
- 3¾ cups clam juice -- from canned clams
- 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk -- as needed for desired thickness
- ½ tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring
- 1½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves -- tender leaf stems are okay too
- 1 pound white fish (halibut, Barramundi, cod) -- cut into bite sized chunks
- 1 pound shrimp -- cut into bite sized chunks
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Cut bacon into ¼ inch strips and cook in a soup pot over medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and retain bacon fat. While the bacon is frying, prepare all other ingredients before starting soup. To prepare the clams, drain the juice into a large measuring cup or bowl and then strain through a fine mesh sieve to trap any sand or debris. If you don't have a fine sieve, line a colander with cheese cloth before straining the juice.
- Saute onions (both types) and celery in 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat in the soup pot until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the potatoes, celery root, parsnips, clam juice, dried thyme, salt and white pepper. Simmer uncovered until vegetables are just fork tender, about 10 minutes.
- In a food processor or using an immersion blender, puree ¼ of the shrimp with ¾ cup of the cooked vegetables and liquid; add back to the soup. Stir in cream, milk, liquid smoke, fresh thyme, bacon, clams, fish, and the rest of the shrimp; simmer for 20-30 minutes to cook and meld flavors. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste.