Great Lakes Clam Chowder

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After shoveling several inches of snow this week in freezing temperatures, I needed something to warm me up.  This chowder does the trick.  It is rich, creamy, chunky, and delicious!

This clam chowder was adapted by Bon Appétit from SkipJack's, a Boston restaurant.  Since Skipjack's is on the East Coast they have access to fresh clams.  Since I am on the coast of the Great Lakes (hence the new name), I use Bon Appétit's version, which calls for bottled clams.  

With a few adaptations to suit my own taste, I have what I think is the very best approximation of this classic--next to fresh clam chowder.  I thickened it with some cornstarch, added a dash of Worcestershire and also a splash of dry Sherry.  It is  wonderful the day I make it, but after a night in the refrigerator, I think the flavor improves.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh chives and handful of oyster crackers--they are a must.  This is a serious bowl of yum!

So, if you are freezing like I am and nowhere near a fresh clam source, this recipe is for you.  Or if you simply want an easier version of good clam chowder, then this recipe is for you too. Enjoy!

Great Lakes Clam Chowder
serves 6

3 8-oz bottles clam juice
1 lb Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (1 oz) butter
3 thick cut slices of bacon, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
2 large stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
6 6 1/2-oz cans chopped clams, drained and juices reserved
3 T cornstarch
1 1/4 cups half and half
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon dry Sherry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce, optional
Chopped fresh chives
Oyster crackers

In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the bottled clam juice and potatoes to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and cover.  Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl, mix together the reserved clam juices and cornstarch.  Set aside.

In a large stock pot set over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the bacon and cook until the bacon begins to brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the onions, celery, garlic, and bay leaf and sauté until the vegetables soften, about 5-7 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the potato mixture and reserved clam juice mixture and bring to a boil.  Stir until thickened about 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the clams, half and half, Worcestershire, and Sherry.  Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Season with salt, pepper, and optional hot sauce.  Serve with a garnish of chopped fresh chives and a handful of oyster crackers.  Can be made the day before and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Bring to a slow simmer before serving. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2000


  1. I am freezing in Florida right now ~ but proud to say we still have no snow! Looking at this instantly warmed me up! We love clam chowder in this house so can't wait to try this!!

  2. I love that you call it calm chowder. Growing up on Lake Superior I can relate to needing something warm after a day of shoveling.

  3. Nicole-
    Thanks for picking up a typo--whoops! Now that you pointed it out, I like it. It has a nice ring to it, Calm Clam Chowder.

  4. Yum, yum, yum! I just finished making this soup and had to tell you how pleased I am with the flavor - I did add a couple more pieces of bacon, so I don't even feel like I need any more salt or pepper! Thank you for sharing!

  5. So pleased that you enjoyed it. Thank you for letting me know.

  6. My wife used to cook clam chowder, but your recipe seems more appetizing. I will tell her about it.

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  7. Nicole - Any suggestions for a good dessert companion to clam chowder? I know you are a dessert girl and nothing is sounding good to me... if you get a chance... let me know if anything comes to your mind ;-)

    1. Personally, I like to keep the spoon in hand and enjoy a dish of Meyer lemon pudding (on my recipe page). It is comforting and refreshing at the same time. A simple slice of pound cake or lemon cake with a dollop of cream works well too.

  8. Oh, you are good... any of those sound perfect. I think I may go for your pound cake. Haven't made it yet and I just got some mace from Penzeys. Thank you for responding.... now I'm ready for our Sunday dinner ;-)


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