Salty Dog Clam Chowder



Salty dog clam chowder.


When I was growing up Mom did almost all the serious cooking in the family, but every so often Dad would take a break from his usual routine to make clam chowder for the family.  I don’t remember exactly what he did, but here’s my attempt to recreate it.


I'd watch Dad make his chowder in the kitchen.

Lots of delicious flavors here. Yum!

I’ve called this recipe “Salty Dog Clam Chowder” because Dad loved fishing and boats.  On one weekend boating excursion we somehow both ended up wearing Greek Fishermans Cap and got to calling each other “You old Salty Dog!”  I’m sure it’s one of those things you need to experience to appreciate, but it was a special trip in the way it built a connection between us.  Sons and fathers aren’t always the best about saying I love you, but in his way Dad was showing and telling me he did.


I loved Dad’s chowder.  I remember he used lots of ground black pepper in it.  If you’re not as enthusiastic about pepper you can probably scale back up front and then add back in at the end, if needed.


Let’s Gather The Ingredients


For today’s recipe we’ll need:


8 strips of bacon or about 3/4 cup of bacon bits.

I'm getting hungry and we haven't even started cooking.

You can also add corn starch if you like a thicker chowder.

1 medium sweet onion chopped

1 cup celery chopped

8 or so Baby Dutch Yellow potatoes or your favorite alternative

1-1/4 teaspoons ground pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups chicken broth

1 can clams with the juice

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2-3 tablespoons corn starch (optional)




Cook the bacon on medium heat.

Lay your bacon out and slice across it with a sharp knife.

Start by slicing up the bacon into small pieces.  This is easy if you keep all your bacon together and just slice across it.  When it’s cut up, set a burner on medium heat, grab a large soup kettle and throw it in the bottom to cook.  You can skip this step if you start with precooked bacon bits.  I sometimes buy a big bag of those at Costco.


Potatoes cook better if they are more uniform in size.

Chop up all your veggies as you cook the bacon.

While the bacon is cooking chop up your other ingredients—the onion, celery and potatoes.  I usually try to cube the potatoes in fairly small chunks and keep them uniform in size so they cook more evenly.


Mmm...I love the smell of cooking bacon.

This bacon is almost done. I’ll save the bacon fat for cooking the veggies.

When the bacon is nicely browned and cooked to your satisfaction, remove it from the heat and set it out on a paper towel to soak up the excess bacon fat.  However, don’t throw out the fat in the pan, which will probably be about 1-2 tablespoons.  We’ll use this in the next step.


You won't need oil if you use the bacon fat to cook these.

Okay, time to start cooking the veggies.

Putting the pot with the bacon fat back on the burner (still medium heat), add the onions, potatoes and celery.  At this point you can also add in the salt and pepper.  Stir frequently for about 10 to 15 minutes.  The idea here is to largely cook these veggies.


Let the stock boil at a medium low heat for 10 minutes.

Time to add our chicken broth, bacon, butter and sugar.

With the veggies nearly done (i.e. potatoes and onions softened), add in the chicken broth, the clams (including the clam juice), the cooked bacon, the butter and the sugar.  Cover and bring to a low boil, then back off the heat and let cook for about 10 more minutes.  Stir occasionally.


Don't let the milk scorch.

Okay, the stock is done. Let’s add the milk.

When the time is up, add in the milk and allow your soup to come back up to a slow bubble.  You don’t want to overcook the milk as it can scorch so be sure to stir frequently.


If you prefer, you can add corn starch as a thickener.  Dad made his soup without it so the texture was more milky than thick, but I know lots of folks prefer thicker chowder.  If you want to add corn starch, sprinkle it gradually into the soup while stirring with a whisk.  Otherwise, if you just toss it in all at once you’ll end up with lumps.  Continue cooking a few more minutes after adding to allow the starch to do it’s magic.


Technically, at this point you’re done and can eat the soup right away.  However, I’ve found that turning the heat off and letting it rest a couple hours in the pot helps all the flavors combine.  Then when I’m ready to serve it, I’ll just warm it back up until it reaches a low bubble.  This also makes it easy if you’re entertaining as you can make the soup ahead of time.


This soup tastes great by itself, with salad or with any meal featuring fish (think fish and chips).  Serve with bread or crackers.  This quantity should make 6 to 8 servings depending on serving size and appetite.


Enjoy, you old salty dog!


If you enjoyed this recipe you may want to read:
Homemade Cream Of Mushroom Soup
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