If you’re hoping for a slimmed-down, heart-friendly, decent and polite clam chowder, you’re not gonna find it. This recipe embodies every dirty habit a real clam chowder should be unapologetic for – pork fat as a starting point, a rich and thick body made almost entirely of whole [full-cream] milk and more cream, melty chunks of potatoes and big meaty bits of clams throughout. What makes it even badder is that it’s seasoned further with miso paste and Korean gochujang paste. It’s spicy. It’s thick. And it tastes salty, porky and briny, like the ocean on fire.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 85 g pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup finely chopped celery
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 2 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour
- 750 ml (3 cups) full-cream (whole) milk
- 60 ml (¼ cup) sake
- 2 tbsp gochujang (Korean chilli paste; see Note)
- 2 tsp miso paste
- 1½ large starchy potatoes, cut into 1 cm cubes
- ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ tsp ground white pepper, plus extra to serve
- 180 ml (¾ cup) thick (heavy) cream
- 1.5 kg surf (littleneck) clams, plus 25 extra (see Note)
- 2 tbsp finely chopped chives
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- fish sauce, to season
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- dried chilli flakes, sauna egg, rustic bread and steamed rice, to serve (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Place the 1.5 kg clams and sake in a large saucepan, put the lid on and cook over medium-high heat for 2–3 minutes or until all clams are opened. Remove the meat and discard the shells, then strain the clam juice through a fine sieve into a jug and reserve (you should have a bit more than 250 ml (1 cup) liquid). Set aside.
In a large saucepan, cook the olive oil and pancetta over medium heat for 4 minutes or until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is browned. Add the onion, celery and bay leaves, then cook for another 5 minutes or until the onion is softened and translucent. Add the flour and cook for another 1 minute, then add the milk, clam juice, sake (or not, if you have used it to cook the clams already), gochujang, miso paste, half the potatoes, and black and white peppers. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a simmer, and the gochujang and miso are completely dissolved. Put the lid on, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. The soup mixture will look horrifyingly broken, with the fat and water separated, and a grainy texture. Do not panic – all is expected here.
Meanwhile, combine the cream remaining potatoes in a small saucepan. Put the lid on and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until the potatoes are soft (be careful not to burn the cream). Set aside.
Transfer the chowder mixture to a blender or use a stick blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Return to the pan and add the potato and cream mixture and the extra 25 clams. Simmer over low heat (and I mean simmer! Never boil or the mixture may break again), stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the clams are opened. Add the clam meats, chives and grated ginger, taste, and season with fish sauce if needed.
Divide the chowder among bowls and place 1 tsp unsalted butter (or 2 tsp if you want) on top of each serving, and a little dust of ground white pepper and dried chilli flakes, if desired. Then, if you really want, a cracked sauna egg. Serve with rustic country bread, or if you're my kind of chowder-er, hot steamed rice.
• Gochujang, fermented Korean chilli paste, is available from Asian grocers.
• Surf clams, also known as littleneck clams, are available from selected foshmongers. Substitute other clams.
Recipe from Lady and Pups by Mandy Lee, with photographs by Mandy Lee.