I have a confession. I am 48 years old and had my first bowl of New England Clam Chowder the other day. Considering I have survived on this planet for nearly half a century without a creamy mix of clams and potatoes covering my tongue, one might question what prompted me to take the culinary leap.
Rich and I both enrolled in Escoffier Online Culinary Academy last January with the intent of adding classic culinary techniques and knowledge to our combined 60 years of home cooking skills. We have finished about a quarter of the course and after taking over six months off, we are now reengaging in the training. When we last worked on our courses in May, we were in the soups section and completed the Minestrone assessment on Mother’s Day. The other assessment in the soups section we needed to complete was, yes you guessed it, New England Clam Chowder.
Earlier in the year when we started Escoffier, I was not blogging too much so I did not share my assessment recipes here on the website. Now, I want to share with you my culinary education journey and this recipe will be the first of many.
Quite a few of the recipes Rich and I have to complete to show competency of the material we are learning contains gluten, dairy or both. Escoffier’s recipe for New England Clam Chowder has both gluten and dairy, with dairy (butter and milk) being the most prevalent ingredients. Replacing butter is a non-issue in terms of both performance and flavor, however, replacing milk, when it is a main ingredient in the dish, is challenging, but not impossible.
There are two options for substituting butter in a recipe: non-dairy plant-based “butter” or ghee.
I typically use Earth Balance Buttery Spread as my go-to butter substitute. Earth Balance is vegan, lactose free, gluten free, casein free, non-GMO and has many “flavors” to choose from including soy-free, olive oil and one fortified with Omega-3. They also offer Buttery Baking Sticks which I find easier to use in many cooking and baking recipes.
This refined butter seems like it wouldn’t be a dairy-free person’s best choice but further research into its production says otherwise. Ghee starts as dairy butter but is refined to the point that it does not contain either casein or lactose, the two aspects of dairy that make people intolerant. I eat ghee regularly with no problems but I encourage you to do your own research and see if it is right for you. I use Purity Farms Organic Ghee and Pure Indian Farms Ghee is good choice too.
Oh, replacing milk. It seems like a no-brainer, just use soy, rice or almond milk. Well, yes, but not without other modifications. I use the unsweetened version of either soy or almond milk whenever I am replacing milk in a recipe. However, I find that there is still a sweetness and “lack of milkyness” that remains and masks the other flavors in the dish. I have found that a combination of garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt and vinegar or lemon juice tone down the sweetness considerably. Start by adding a little of the garlic powder, onion powder and salt, then taste your dish. Continue adding those ingredients in small amounts until you taste less of the sweetness and more of the rest of ingredients in the dish. Then, at the end when you think you have almost got it, add a teaspoon or so of vinegar to finish it off. Be careful with the vinegar and add a little at a time.
When recipes call for “flour” don’t panic. You can always replace the flour with just about any gluten free all purpose flour in equal amounts. I prefer Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour and have used Pamela’s and GFJules with terrific results.
A note About the Clams
This recipe includes canned clams and clam juice. There will be clam juice in the canned clams you buy so use that. We used Chicken of the Sea Whole Baby Clams in the 10 oz. can. The can states that there is 5 oz. of clam juice in each can. So, for this recipe, you will need 2 cans for the juice but will only use 8 oz. of the 10 oz. of whole clams.
You can also use fresh clams (make they are all closed when you buy them) for your Clam Chowder. If you do, remember to reserve the liquid you used to boil your clams.
Warm Soup on a VERY Cold Night
The fattiness of the salt pork created a welcome depth of flavor and the fresh thyme punctuated the creamy soup with a welcomed brightness. The New England Clam Chowder Rich and I made was the perfect dish for a frigidly cold Colorado evening.
Cook, Enjoy and Share!