Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Oregon Coast Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder photo 573EC628-B652-434D-8C3B-5C376D6B3C72_zps8gosx7cq.jpgWhere I live on the Oregon Coast, folks exchange information on where to get a great bowl of clam chowder. The best places are known to locals, and there's often chowder cook-off contests by local chefs and annual seafood festivals.

My Illinois grandmother often made it when I was growing up, as she lived on a river.  Part of my summer fun involved diving for river clams so she could make her chowder. 

I used her recipe for many years, and it's close to this one, except over the many years living here, I've come to enjoy a creamier, thicker version served at local restaurants.  A cook at a local restaurant told me her secret was to use cream instead of milk, a bit of dried dill, and also use a dab of "clam base," which is a bouillon paste often used by chefs.

Many cooks use it as a secret ingredient for extra flavor in seafood sauces or soups. It costs about $5 for jar, but a little goes a long way.  I keep my jar in the freezer and it lasts me well over a year or more.  It's very concentrated.

Chowder served with crusty white bread, or corn bread is a meal by itself. Most often I serve it with crusty bread and a salad.  Some local restaurants serve it in round "bread bowls," or offer it as the soup of the day or an appetizer.

Fresh clams are seasonal here, so most often I use canned chopped clams.  By the way, this recipe can be used to make other chowders, too.  Just substitute shrimp or other firm fish for a seafood chowder.

Oregon Coast Clam Chowder
Clam Chowder photo 223D4361-77D6-4374-932A-E8687CAE74C3_zpsb7bz3iwq.jpg4-6 slices chopped bacon
1 diced onion
3, 6 oz. cans chopped clams with juice
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed, about a 1/2 inch in size
4 Tabs. flour, or more
salt and pepper
3 tsps. dried parsley
4 cups whole milk, half and half, or cream
1-1/2 cups water

1 tsp. clam base (optional)
2 Tabs. of butter
Garnishes: Paprika, chopped chives, or dried dill and/or a dollop of butter

Clam Chowder photo A355484A-9D30-43B3-ACD5-EA85DFBC0531_zps556rexle.jpgIn a large pot, brown chopped bacon until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon from the pan and set aside. In the bacon grease, saute onions with a pinch of salt and cook until soft.  In a small cup mix water into the flour until well blended, then add mixture and potatoes to the onions. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until the potatoes start to soften and mixture thickens. Season potatoes with salt, pepper and parsley. 
Clam Chowder photo A482D541-1FD4-4985-9D57-23D3A97B9473_zpsvqrfnah1.jpg
Add cooked bacon, milk or cream, clams and juice, butter, and clam base. Simmer on medium high but do not boil.  Turn heat down and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are softened.  If too thick, add more water or cream and if not thick enough mix a little more flour with water and add to mixture, stir and heat until it thickens more.

Pour into bowls and serve with a dollop of butter and/or sprinkle of paprika, chopped chives or dried dill. Serves 8.

Estimated cost: $6.00 or less; .75 cents a serving or less.