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Clam & mussel chowder

With today’s overcast skies and hints of rain and chilliness, it’s looking more like Autumn. And so another meal-in-a-bowl recipe, this time the comforting goodness of chowder. (Hey! Both this and the last recipe started with frying up bacon. What’s with that? Need you ask? The Answer: Bacon saves.)

clam & mussel chowder in a bowl

If you really don’t like mussels, just substitute more clams for ’em. Serve with a nice crusty sourdough.

I’m not a fan of celery, so I left it out of the chowder. (Celery certainly has its place, like in stocks.) But perhaps next time I’ll use fennel bulb, since I do like its anise flavor; same family as celery, but with more personality. I’d chop it up into small pieces, then sauté it along with the leeks and onions. (Update 19 Dec 2008: The fennel turned out to be a really nice addition!)


  • 3 ounces bacon, chopped into 1-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 pounds leeks, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into a small dice
  • (optional) 1 small fennel bulb, chopped into a small dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and chopped into pieces roughly 1 inch long by 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine; one which goes well with creamy foods or shellfish, e.g., I used a Chardonnay from Carneros Valley. Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Albarino, or even a dry Riesling would work as well.
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup pastry or all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • (optional) 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 6-ounce cans of chopped clams, including juice
  • 2 6-ounce cans of mussels, including juice
  • freshly ground pepper


  1. In a large pot, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to drain in a paper-lined bowl. Remove all but 2 to 3 tablespoons of the fat from the pot.
  2. Sauté the leeks, onions and fennel, if using, in the pot until translucent, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coriander seed, bay leaves, thyme, potatoes, white wine, and hot water. Bring to a simmer and cover.
  4. Prepare the béchamel in a separate sauce pan. Melt the butter until bubbly, stir in the flour until a lightly browned roux is formed, then slowly whisk in the warm milk until smooth.
  5. Add the béchamel to the main pot. Season with cayenne, if desired.
  6. Add the clam juice, and again bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes become tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Stir in the cream, clams, mussels, and their juices. Bring back to a simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Season with black pepper, garnish with bacon, then serve it forth.

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