Chef Robin Kort loves bringing this chowder to the beach already cooked. After a day of crab fishing, she steams up any crab caught in the soup. But even if she doesn’t catch any crab, there’s still lunch to eat. This recipe is very versatile, so you can add whatever seafood you harvest to it: clams, mussels, cod, salmon, scallops, prawns, or shrimp. Crab is best caught in cooler months, and chowder is the perfect warm-up on a crisp day. Serve it with uni butter on good bread for a decadent accent.
Laphroaig Clam Chowder
2 lb (900 g) Manila clams
1½ cups (375 mL) water
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup (125 mL) diced fennel, fronds reserved for garnish ¾ cup (175 mL) diced celery ribs
¼ cup (60 mL) diced carrot
2 Tbsp (30 mL) butter
1¼ cups (310 mL) chicken stock ¾ cup (175 mL) diced red potatoes
1 bay leaf
½ tsp (2.5 mL) anchovy paste ½ tsp (2.5 mL) saffron threads (optional)
Pinch of celery salt
10 oz (280 g) salmon, cut in ¾-inch (2 cm) cubes
1 (14 oz/418 g) can creamed corn
1 cup (250 mL) 2% milk (or chicken stock)
¼ cup (60 mL) Laphroaig whisky (or another peaty variety)
Salt and pepper
2 tsp (20 mL) fried garlic, for garnish
If you’ve harvested the clams yourself, make sure you purge them before cooking to remove any grit and mud. Rinse the clams and use a paring knife to remove the meat from the shell. Feel around to cut the muscles that hold it closed. Remove the clam meat and cut the siphon or neck of the clam where it attaches to the body meat. The body meat can be rinsed further to remove any sand or grit and chopped fine to add to a chowder or frozen for later use.
Place the water in a deep, wide pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the clams, cover the pot, and steam for 3 minutes. The clams should all have popped open. If any haven’t opened, cook them for a few minutes longer until they do. Transfer the clams to a bowl and let cool. Reserve the cooking liquid.
Using the same pot (no need to clean it out first), sauté the onions, fennel, celery, and carrots in the butter over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved cooking water and stock, followed by the potatoes, bay leaf, anchovy paste, saffron, and celery salt. Cover and cook on medium-high until the potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes. Stir in the salmon, creamed corn, and milk, and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the whisky last and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the clams between four bowls and pour the soup overtop. Garnish with fried garlic and some fennel fronds or flowers and serve hot with bread and butter.
Note: Switch the chicken stock for crab broth, made simply by simmering crab shells in water for 45 minutes. Smoked shellfish works really well in this recipe in place of the clams.
Note: Cook broken-down crab legs in the broth until the flesh is white, about 15 minutes, and use in addition to the clams.
Recipe by Robin Kort from The Coastal Forager’s Cookbook: Feasting Wild in the Pacific Northwest, copyright © 2023 by Robin Kort.