Sunday, 9 October 2016

It's Chowder

“The lore has not died out of the world, and you will still find people who believe that soup will cure any hurt or illness and is no bad thing to have for the funeral either.” 
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Yes, it's another soup recipe, and you know why? Because soup is glorious and comforting and is a major theme of this blog—just check the URL. There will be many more soups in the future as well, I promise you, but this one holds a special place in my heart.

My apologies for the delayed post: I've been trying to publish at least one blog post a week, but I've been travelling and immersed in various bits of strangeness over the last couple of weeks and haven't been able to concentrate on my own writing. Mea culpa, dear readers.
The days are growing cooler, with nighttime temperatures that just barely skim above freezing. It's a nebulous time in which the days are still quite warm, but we can start to see our breath once the sun begins to set. I've set fires in the wood stoves almost nightly, and heaps of hand-knit, warm woollen socks have been pulled out of storage.

This soup has been a favourite of mine since earliest childhood, and I have made it on countless occasions when I have needed its comfort. 
I need its comfort this weekend. 
It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and although there is much to be thankful for, this is also a time of grief and loss for me: for what might have been, as well as for old wounds whose scabs have been torn open rather cruelly and needlessly. 

I've made several different versions of this chowder (chowdah, to my east coast friends!) to suit different people's dietary needs, but it's gorgeous in all of its many incarnations. I'm sharing the original (pescetarian + dairy) recipe that my family has been preparing for the past 40 or so years, with vegan and AIP-compliant variations listed afterwards.

This chowder is made in three parts and then combined.

Winter's Clam Chowder


Part 1: Broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups firm white potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cup white onion, diced (or 1/2 cup onion, 1/4 cup thinly sliced leek whites)
  • 3/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced
Bring the water to a rolling boil in a large soup pot, then add the potatoes, onions, and carrots. Bring the heat down to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender (usually 8-12 minutes).

Part 2: Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (standard or gluten-free, your call)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 cups milk (or 1 cup milk, 1 cup half-and-half cream if you'd like this soup to be really rich and creamy)
  • 2 cups old cheddar cheese, grated

Begin part 2 once you've set the vegetables to simmer.  Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat, then whisk the flour in bit by bit to make a good, thick roux.
Slowly add the milk, whisking quickly the entire time.  Add pepper and mustard, then add the grated cheddar in small quantities, using a spoon to stir the mixture in order to blend it evenly.
Once it's completely mixed, pour this mixture into the vegetable broth. 

Part 3: Clams
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (gluten-free/vegan as required)
  • 3 cans (10 oz ea.) baby clams, including the juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
Combine these three ingredients in a bowl, and then add to the soup pot. Use a large spoon to stir everything thoroughly, then allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes longer. 

You can serve it immediately (preferably accompanied by really good bread and a crisp white wine), but the soup is even better the next day once all the flavours have had a chance to combine.

Vegan version:

Swap out the clams for diced oyster mushrooms, and use coconut, soy, almond, or rice milk in lieu of dairy. You can add a bit of miso paste to get the briny umami note that the clam juice would have provided.
To thicken it, you could try using Daiya shreds, but I've never tried using them in this way. I have, however, made the soup thick and creamy by adding pureed white cannellini beans to it.

AIP version:

Use diced yucca, turnip, sweet potato, or rutabaga instead of white potatoes, OR eliminate that ingredient entirely and just pack the chowder full of other fish instead. I like to add chunks of white fish to mine, as well as crab meat and shrimp.
Coconut milk is ideal for adding creaminess as well as a tiny hint of sweetness. If you'd like this thickened, pureed steamed cauliflower works like a charm, though I've also used a roux made with a tiny bit of tapioca flour mixed with olive oil for that purpose.

I hope this soup comforts you and your loved ones beautifully.


  1. This is just what I need this weekend too! Mushroom chowder sounds perfect. I could do a corn chowder but I think the late season local corn isn't quite tender enough.

    1. Please let me know how it turns out!
      I absolutely love potato-corn chowder, but yeah, the corn isn't tender enough to make it really good just yet. Canned organic corn can do the trick, but that's hard to come by out here.

      When I make mushroom chowder, I actually sautee the 'shroomies in a bit of butter first with a tiny bit of Worcestershire sauce and some crumbled summer savoury so they're browned and beautiful in the soup, rather than pallid and grey.