How to Make Chowder

Chunky chowder provides a satisfying base to showcase fish, seafood, chicken, and vegetables. Here are master recipes for two all-time favorites -- New England and Manhattan clam chowders.

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The word chowder is believed to have derived from chaudiere -- the French word for cauldron, the heavy vessel in which fishermen made their robust, sustaining stews using the day's catch from the sea.

When considering chowder, clam chowder immediately comes to mind -- it's among the most well-known and beloved of chowders. Traditionally, however, chowder refers to any thick seafood soup made with a chunky mix of potatoes and other vegetables. In more contemporary takes on chowder, seafood may not even be in the mix at all -- instead, corn, beans, chicken, ham, or other favorite foods can star in the filling soup. Some recipes don't even call for potatoes. The only given in any bowl of chowder these days is that it's a thick, satisfying, steaming bowl of goodness.

Here we'll show you how to make the two most common chowders -- New England Clam Chowder and Manhattan Clam Chowder -- and we'll point the way to recipes for other chowders you might enjoy.

Red or White?

New England and Manhattan chowders are easy to tell apart. Made with milk or cream, New England chowder is white. Without the creamy base, but chock-full of tomatoes, Manhattan clam chowder is predominantly red. Here's how to make them.

How to Make New England Clam Chowder

Milk and half-and-half -- thickened with a little flour -- provides a delightfully creamy base for this soup. The recipe makes 4 main-dish servings.

1. Select the Clams

You'll need either 1 pint of shucked clams or two 6.5-ounce cans minced clams.

  • If you're using fresh clams, drain the clams, reserving the juice. Strain the clam juice to remove bits of shell and set the strained juice aside. Chop the clams and set them aside.
  • If you're using canned clams, drain them, reserving the liquid.
  • Add enough water to the reserved clam juice (whether fresh or canned) to make 1-1/2 cups. Set this liquid aside.

2. Cook the Bacon

Cut two slices of bacon in half. In a large saucepan cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon. Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings in the pan. Drain the bacon on paper towels, then crumble the bacon and set it aside.

3. Assemble the Chowder

To the saucepan with the drippings, add the reserved 1 cup clam liquid; 2-1/2 cups chopped, peeled potatoes (3 medium potatoes); 1 cup chopped onion (1 large); 1 teaspoon instant bouillon granules; 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce; and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushing it between your forefinger and thumb before adding.

4. Simmer the Chowder

  • Bring the potato mixture to boiling. Reduce heat to simmering. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Using the back of a fork, mash the potatoes slightly against the side of the pan.
  • Stir together 2 cups whole or 2-percent milk, 1 cup half-and-half or light cream, and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Stir this milk-flour mixture into the potato mixture. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly.

5. Add the Clams & Serve

  • Stir in the clams. Return the chowder to boiling; reduce the heat and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more or until the soup is heated through.
  • To serve, ladle the chowder into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with the crumbled bacon. If you like, garnish each serving with fresh herb sprigs.
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How to Make Manhattan Clam Chowder

The broth of this tomato-studded version of clam chowder gets extra flavor from clam juice, which you can find in the canned fish aisle of your supermarket. If you like, substitute chicken broth for clam chowder. This recipe makes 4 main-dish servings.

1. Select the Clams

You'll need either 1 pint of shucked clams or two 6.5-ounce cans minced clams.

  • If you're using fresh clams, drain the clams, reserving the juice. Strain the clam juice to remove bits of shell and set the strained juice aside. Chop the clams and set them aside.
  • If you're using canned clams, drain them, reserving the liquid.
  • Add enough water to the reserved clam juice (whether fresh or canned) to make 1-1/2 cups. Set this liquid aside.

2. Assemble the Chowder

  • In a large saucepan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil or cooking oil. Add 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks), 1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small), and 1/4 cup chopped carrot (1 small). Cook and stir the vegetables in the hot oil until they are tender.
  • Stir in the reserved 1-1/2 cups clam liquid, one 8-ounce bottle clam juice (or 1 cup chicken broth), 2 cups cubed red potatoes (2 medium potatoes), 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Add 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushing it between your forefinger and thumb before using.

3. Simmer the Chowder & Serve

  • Bring the soup to boiling. Reduce the heat to simmering. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the clams, one 14.5-ounce can undrained diced tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons purchased cooked bacon pieces or cooked, crumbled bacon (see tip, below).

Tip: If cooking your own bacon, cool 2 slices and reserve 2 tablespoons of the drippings. Substitute the reserved bacon drippings for the olive oil or cooking oil when cooking the celery, onion, and carrot. (If you don't have 2 tablespoons bacon drippings, add enough olive oil or cooking oil to the drippings to equal 2 tablespoons total.)

  • Return the soup to boiling, reduce the heat, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more or until heated through. To serve, ladle into bowls.
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