Last year, we took a road trip with our friends Mary and Matt to Prince Edward Island, Canada's eastern outpost of life in the 1950s. If you've never been, you really must go. PEI seduces you with its low scale, green fields, beautiful beaches, Native Canadian culture, Anne of Green Gables, folk music, and lobster. Lots and lots of lobster. We had versions of this seafood chowder all across the island, and I couldn't wait to make my own when we returned home. This is a really a "use what's fresh in the market" chowder, in any combination you like. Fresh clams, and fresh parsley, make all the difference; evaporated milk gives body to the soup, without using any flour as a thickener. Make a Lennie Gallant play list, and serve big bowls of this chowder with hunks of crusty bread or salty crackers. Don't be surprised if Anne herself shows up for dinner.
Atlantic Canada seafood chowder
From the pantry, you'll need: bacon, onion, dry white wine, bay leaf, fresh parsley, kosher salt, fresh black pepper.
Adapted from this recipe in Canadian Living Magazine, and taste-testing all around Prince Edward Island. Serves 6.
3/4 lb minced clams, fresh from the fish market, with their liquid (or 2 5-oz cans of chopped clams, with their liquid)
8 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 cup grated peeled baking potato
2 cups half-and-half (do not use fat-free)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
1 can (345 ml) evaporated milk
1 lb mixed fish or shellfish (I use salmon, cod and lobster tail, in equal amounts), cut into chunks
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp each kosher salt and fresh black pepper, or more to taste
Strain the clams, and set them aside. Reserve all of the liquid (it's easiest to pour this directly into a measuring cup).
In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Add the onion and celery, plus 1 tablespoon of water, and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low. Add the potato, half-and-half, white wine, reserved clam liquid, bay leaf and thyme. Cook until the potato softens and thickens the soup, 12-15 minutes.
Then, stir in the clams, evaporated milk, fish/shellfish, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook an additional 5 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt or pepper, as needed.
Discard the bay leaf, and serve hot.
More chowder variations:
Smoky shrimp, corn and bacon chowder, from The Perfect Pantry
Rhode Island clear clam chowder, from The Perfect Pantry
Quick and easy white clam chowder, from The Perfect Pantry
Thai style corn chowder, from The Kitchn
Salmon chowder, from Simply Recipes
Red Lobster clam chowder, from Copykat.com
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