Psst…C’mere. I have a secret for you!
After spending all afternoon judging a seafood chowder competition and quizzing all of the chef’s at length, I now KNOW the real deal behind a successful seafood chowder. It isn’t what you’d think. Nope, not a secret ingredient. It isn’t a tricky technique. This may shock you my friends, but the secret is…
Keep. It. Simple.
That’s it. Use the best ingredients you have and don’t complicate it with too many flavours.
At Nanaimo’s first annual Seafood Chowder Festival hosted by Lucky’s Liquor Store and the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, we were treated to a delightful sampling of both classic and cutting edge seafood chowders. If you didn’t make it this year, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled next fall, it was a fantastic event and really showcased the talent at many of our local restaurants. It was also a successful fundraiser for Nanaimo Loaves and Fishes, who are desperately needing a new warehouse.
Of the many entries, there were four that really stood out for the judges. It was tough though….mmmmm that was a lot of tasty tasting…my notes scribbled all over my judging sheet were overboard with exclamation marks.
In the end we had to choose a few, it’s exciting that some winners were places I haven’t had the chance to venture out to yet! For best use of local ingredients, and she keeps it VERY local…like kitchen garden local, Riso’s light, bright & beautiful chowder came out on top. Sneaking in a hit of their own locally brewed beer, Longwood Brew Pub won the prize for best use of a Unique Ingredient, as they said..’beer makes it better’. After much friendly debate among the judges we decided to tie the two chowders that really pleased our palates; Bold Knight and Old City Station Pub. Both of which were creamy, smooth and packed with clean, fresh from the sea flavour. Bold Knight took top prize, by a few votes, for the People’s Choice Award.
I’m sorry…now you’re sad. You want chowder too? Good thing the top award winners have it on their menus! (and although they didn’t win an award, I personally liked Frankie’s too). It’s pouring rain outside, a perfect day to sample some warm & comforting seafoody goodness.
In case you want to stay home and make your own, I do have a recipe for you. Although the lion’s share of chowders at the festival were cream based ( I’ve heard that’s the fave) I decided to be a rebel and share a Manhattan.
My fab friend Gracie, a 17 year old dynamo made this for us when she was visiting this summer and I was really impressed. It’s quick, it’s easy and most importantly it is fabuloso flavourful! Since she lives up north and is not surrounded by an ocean, she doesn’t have all the access to the local seafood. I have included a few notes after the recipe, if you want to sub fresh for canned. Your call!
Gracie’s Easy Manhattan-style Chowder
I am a little garlic crazy, so I added a few crushed cloves at the beginning of the recipe. This recipe keeps very well in the fridge for a few days & tastes even better as leftovers! Last night my son heated it up and added some whipping cream to it , oh yeah…that worked! If you’d prefer to use fresh clams, this recipe will take 6-8 pounds of fresh clams. Bring them to boil in 5 cups of salted water. Cook until all clams have opened, discard any that don’t. Strain clams out of broth, set aside broth to use in your chowder. Remove clam meat from shells, discard shells. If you like you can do this step the day before, just hold both the broth & the clam meat in the fridge.
- ½ white onion, med dice
- 3 stalks of celery, med dice
- 6 slices of thick cut bacon, med dice
- 3½ cups water
- 4 large carrots, med dice
- 6-7 large russet potatoes, large dice
- Clam juice drained from 1½ cans of clams (about 2 cups)
- 2 cans of whole tomatoes, drain… reserve liquid and large diced tomato
- 3 cans of baby clams
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Step 1 In a large sauce pan, cook the bacon pieces over medium heat.
- Step 2 Add the onion and celery, sauté until onion is clear.
- Step 3 Add carrots, potatoes, tomatoes,thyme, salt, pepper, water and clam juice, reduce to low heat & cover.
- Step 4 Allow liquid to reduce, stirring occasionally, until carrots and potatoes are cooked, approx 1 hour
- Step 5 Add clams and season to taste.
- Step 6 Serve with crusty bread & enjoy!
“Soup is liquid comfort.” ~ Author Unknown