Pacific Northwest Clam Chowder

Pacific Northwest Clam Chowder


There are many versions of clam chowder throughout the States (as a former expat that’s the term we used for the U.S.).  There’s the rich, creamy Boston Clam Chowder, clear, clammy Rhode Island Chowder, red Manhattan Chowder, and Italian Clam Soup with Pasta.  I love them all, but the version I make most frequently can best be described as Pacific Northwest Clam Chowder, a version found in many restaurants in Seattle, my old long-time hometown.  It’s milk based but lighter than Boston, has a pretty confetti of colorful vegetables, a touch spicy and with a nice sherry finish.

  • Four slices bacon, chopped
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 ½ pounds red potatoes, unpeeled and cubed
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper
  • 4  6-12 oz cans chopped clams, drained, save liquid
  • 1 12-oz bottle clam juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce (I used my favorite Sriracha Asian Chile sauce)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups non fat half and half
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

In a large soup pot, stir bacon over medium high heat until crisp.  Remove bacon and drain it on paper towels.  Pour off and save all but 1 tbsp melted fat for other uses.  Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté four about five minutes.   Add garlic, potatoes and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally until potatoes start to lightly brown (about ten minutes).  Add reserved clam liquid, clam juice, wine, Worcestershire, Tabasco and thyme.  Bring to a boil and then turn heat down and simmer about 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked but still firm.  Dissolve cornstarch into the non-fat half and half.  Stir mixture into the soup and add clams.  Cook until it just starts to bubble, turn heat to low and cook for 2 minutes more to allow the mixture to thicken oh so slightly.  Add ground pepper to taste.  Ladle into shallow soup bowls.  Drizzle 2 tbsp sherry over each serving and garnish with bacon bits and parsley.  Serves about 6.

Note, you can also add fish, shrimp and/or scallops for a wonderful, thick main-dish seafood chowder

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