Splash Café Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bowls

Rick Stein's recipe for Clam Chowder, as seen on his BBC series, The Road to Mexico, is served in a crusty sourdough bowl, the traditional Californian way.

Introduction

Chowders served in the way the French call ‘en croustade’ are a bit of a speciality in California, though this white chowder would have originated in New England. The idea for this dish came from the Splash Café in Pismo Beach whose motto is ‘clam capital of the world’. The owner Joanne Currie wouldn’t give me the recipe. I don’t blame her. Any place with just one famous product needs to keep their recipe secret, and famous it is. They make over 40,000 gallons of chowder each year from their two really quite small restaurants. Never mind, I have written a few recipes for chowder in my time and as I’m not in the clam capital of the world I have made this with some white fish as well, as otherwise it takes a lot of clams. I liked Joanne because I was able to share some thoughts about how hard you have to work to make restaurants successful.

Serves 6
Easy

Ingredients

6 Sourdough bread rolls or crusty rolls (about 12 cm diameter)
1 kg fresh clams, scrubbed
225g waxy potatoes, peeled
40g unsalted butter
75g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
1 small onion or banana shallot, finely chopped
1 leek, cleaned, halved lengthways and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
30g plain flour
500ml whole milk
200ml double cream
1 bay leaf
200g cod fillet (or other white fish), skinned and cut into 2cm pieces
1 tsp salt
10 turns black peppermill
A few rasps freshly grated nutmeg
Small handful flatleaf parsley or chives, chopped

Instructions

Cut the tops off the rolls and scoop out as much of the dough as you can, leaving the crust.

Heat 250ml of water in a large shallow pan and add the clams. Put a lid on the pan and allow the clams to steam for 3–4 minutes until they open. Set a colander over a bowl, drain the opened clams and reserve the cooking liquid. When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and set aside.

Cut the potatoes into 1.5cm dice and boil them for 5–10 minutes until tender, then drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a separate large pan over a medium heat and fry the bacon, onion or shallot, leek and celery until soft. Add the plain flour and cook for a minute or so, then add the reserved clam cooking liquor and stir until thickened. Add the milk, cream, bay leaf, potatoes and cod, then bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 5 minutes until the cod is cooked, then add the clam meat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Spoon the chowder into the hollowed-out bread rolls or serve in bowls with sourdough on the side. Garnish the chowder with chopped parsley or chives.

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