Every sea town has its version of chowder. Be it a single variety of fish like salmon, a mélange of shellfish as in a traditional crab cioppino, or a creamy potato-laden clam chowder. Here in Seattle, we have a chowder so good the creator, after winning year after year, was asked to not compete in the annual cook-off anymore - just to be fair to others. So Duke, of Duke’s Chowder House, became a judge.
There are no secret ingredients in this amazing clam chowder recipe, just a perfect combination of aromatics, fresh herbs, an awesome clam base, smoky bacon, and a really good roux. And it all comes together in a chowder that will make your mouth sing. Best of all, Duke’s has come up with a gluten free flour blend recipe, so all their chowders can be made to accommodate those with a gluten intolerance (see recipe below).
Duke’s Award-Winning Clam Chowder (with a gluten free version)
Courtesy of Duke's Chowder House
Makes 3/4 gallon
In the 1980s, Seattle hosted a massive Chowder Cook-Off and invited all of Seattle’s seafood restaurants to compete. We won by a landslide. I knew our chowder was good but this proved it. In fact, it was so good that we won three years in a row. Then the Cook-Off organizers politely asked us not to compete again and invited me to be a “celebrity” judge the following year.
Makes 3/4 gallon
2 cups diced red potatoes
4 slices nitrite-free bacon
1/2 cup butter
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced onion
1 tbsp fresh garlic
1/2 cup flour or gluten-free blend (see recipe below)
2 tbsp clam base
1 1/2 cups clam juice (see tip, below)
2 tsp clam base (see Chef "Wild" Bill tip below)
1/2 tsp fresh basil leaves, diced small
1 tsp fresh thyme stems removed and diced small
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley, stems removed and diced small
1 tbsp fresh dill, stems removed and diced small
1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 lb surf Clams (all natural)
Chef “Wild” Bill tip: Custom Culinary makes an all-natural clam base developed for Duke’s. Purchase it in 1 lb containers on Amazon.com here under the Gold Label Clam brand.
Blanch potatoes in boiling water until tender. Cool and set aside.
Cook bacon in heavy-bottomed saucepan until crispy. Add butter, onions, celery and sauté until tender. Add flour, lower the heat, and cook for 7 minutes at 165 degrees. This is the roux; it keeps away the pastiness and is the secret to making good chowder.
In a separate bowl, mix clam base with clam juice until dissolved. Add to the roux (adding it after the roux has cooked prevents roux balls from forming). Add the milk and cream, then the herbs. Heat until almost boiling (185 degrees), blending constantly with a wire whisk.
Add blanched red potatoes and clams. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes at 185 degrees.
If possible, enjoy after simmering for a few hours or reheated the following day (for food safety reasons, make sure to cool the chowder rapidly in your refrigerator overnight. Shallow pans work best). The chowder tastes dramatically better after a “cure,” when the herbs have bloomed and the flavors have fully emulsified.
Duke’s gluten-free blend option:
1 cup tapioca starch
2 ½ cups white rice flour
4 cups potato starch
4 ½ cups sweet sorghum flour
7 cups brown rice flour