Smile Politely

A Bowl of Hearty Clam Chowder

On a recent trip to Boston, I made the mistake of trying the clam chowder at a so-called “seafood” restaurant. The flavor was bland and the consistency milky. Maybe that’s what they like, but I prefer my chowder hearty. So upon my return, I decided to do my own version.

Traditional chowder recipes call for roux, the French version of a thickener made with butter and flour. I prefer to let the potatoes do the thickening for me. By cooking some of the potatoes a little longer than others, they begin to melt and act as the thickener.

Sure, I could use fresh clams, but why?

This is a chowder, which means all the ingredients are basically cooked to death — so I recommend the canned variety. But the essence of any good soup is the broth and this is where I cheat the most. Having worked in restaurant kitchens, I also know that this is what even the best chefs do — they buy the soup base instead of making their own. It’s just cheaper and more efficient. For clam chowder, I highly recommend Bear Creek Clam Base, available at Meijer (about $4).


And here’s my final touch: throw in a whole bulb of garlic. You hear me say this over and over again, “There’s no such thing as too much garlic.”


  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 bulb garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup carrots diced
  • 3 potatoes diced
  • 2 tbs clam base
  • 2 cans chopped clams (about 13 oz total)
  • 1 can whole baby clams (10 oz)
  • 1½ cup corn (frozen)
  • 3 tbs bacon, crumbled
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped parsley to garnish

To make the chowder:

  1. In a large soup pot, sautee the onions, leeks and garlic in butter.
  2. Add the water, carrots and 1/3 of the potatoes.
  3. Bring the chowder to a boil, then cook for 20 minutes over medium flame.
  4. Add the clam base, clams, corn, bacon and the rest of the potatoes.
  5. Bring to a boil, then simmer another 15 minutes.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Turn fire off, stir in the milk.
  8. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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