In the Maritimes we don’t worry whether our chowders are authentic or not. We know a true clam chowder is just a bowl full of simple, hearty flavours. We often use canned clams and always stir in onions, potatoes and milk. We’re too busy asking for seconds to worry whether we got it right!
Yield: 4 servings
4 slices of bacon, chopped
A splash of water
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
A generous splash of any white wine
1 cup (250 mL) of heavy cream (35%)
1 cup (250 mL) of milk
Two 5-ounce (142 g) cans of clam meat
1 large baking potato (unpeeled), coarsely grated
2 bay leaves
Leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
One 12-ounce (354 mL) can unsweetened evaporated milk, or 1 1/2 (375 mL) cups regular milk
A sprinkle or two of sea salt and freshly grated pepper
A handful of ï¬‚at leaf parsley leaves
Toss the bacon pieces into a thick-bottomed stockpot with a splash of water. By adding water to the raw bacon you’re less likely to burn it as it gradually releases its fat and browns evenly.
Stir over medium-high heat until the bacon crisps nicely. Pour off most of the fat. Add another splash of water to loosen the ï¬‚avourful bits on the bottom and then add the onions and celery. Sauté them for a few minutes until they soften and smell great.
Add the white wine, cream, milk, clam meat, grated potato and the bay and thyme leaves. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer, stirring frequently. Turn the heat down a notch or two and continue simmering until the grated potato softens, releasing its starches and thickening the chowder, about 20 minutes. (A baking potato is the best choice for thickening the chowder because its high-starch, low-moisture ï¬‚esh dissolves so easily.)
Add the evaporated (or regular) milk and continue stirring until it’s heated through. Taste the chowder and season it well with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately.
If you like, this chowder can be made a day or two in advance and then reheated. Its ï¬‚avour actually gets better when it rests overnight.
For a distinctive ï¬‚avour, try adding a spoonful or two of horseradish to the chowder. For a luxurious special-occasion treat, add lots of smoked salmon. You may also try stirring in one of your favourite fresh herbs at the last second. Dill and tarragon are traditional, as are green onions. You may also stir in chunks of any ï¬sh you like, even canned tuna ï¬sh.