My husband and I love having traditions on the holidays. And just this year, we started a new one by having seafood chowder, pretzel rolls and salad on Christmas Eve. We actually stole this idea from my cousin Dan and his family -- on Christmas Eve 2012, they invited us to their house to have scallop chowder, bread and salad and we loved it! Not only did I ask for the recipe but we also took their idea. And this year, even though we couldn't be with them on Christmas Eve, we still copied them.
While Dan's original recipe was scallop chowder, we thought clams and salmon would be wonderful additions to the chowder. And they were! I cooked the clams in store-bought clam broth and water, and then poached the salmon in the clam broth, which gave the broth incredible flavor.
There are a few steps below (cook clams, poach salmon, saute scallops) but each step was a lot easier than I had thought it would be. Plus, you can make almost the whole chowder ahead of time and then just warm it up and do the final two steps. This was perfect for us -- I was able to finish the chowder after our Christmas Eve service and have a fancy dinner on the table in no time. I'm already looking forward to 12-24-14!
Adapted from my cousin Dan's recipe and Cook's Illustrated's clam chowder
Serves 4-6 as main course
- 1 dozen hard-shell clams, such as littleneck, topneck, or small cherrystone, washed and scrubbed clean
- 2 cups clam broth
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 lb. wild salmon (I even used frozen and it was fine)
- 2 slices of bacon
- 1 cup diced onions
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 1/2 cups of diced potatoes
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 1/2 lb. scallops (preferably sea scallops)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 - 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (you could use dried parsley flakes instead or chopped cilantro)
- Bring clams, clam broth and water to boil in large, covered soup pot. Steam until clams just open, 3 to 7 minutes (I checked at 3 minutes and every minute after, taking out the clams as they opened).
- Transfer clams to a bowl; cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, remove clams from shells by opening clams with a paring knife while holding it over a bowl to catch juices. Next, sever the muscle from under the clam and remove it from the shell. Reserve meat in bowl and discard shells. Mince clams; set aside. Pour clam broth into a heat-proof cup or bowl (I used a large Pyrex measuring cup), holding back last few tablespoons broth in case of sediment; set clam broth aside.
- Rinse and dry pot; return to burner and heat on medium heat. Fry bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and let it drain on paper towels.
- Using the same pot with the bacon fat, saute onions until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour; stir until lightly colored, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in reserved clam juice, then add bay leaf and thyme.
- Place salmon fillets, skin-side down in the pan with the clam juice. Season with salt and pepper. Cover. Cook 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet, or to desired done-ness (the salmon should flake easily with a fork). Set salmon aside and chop salmon when cool enough to handle.
- Add potatoes and carrots to the pot of clam broth; simmer until potatoes are fork tender, 10-15 minutes. Add in the chopped clams and salmon. (At this point, the soup can be refrigerated ahead of time and then brought back to a simmer when ready to finish cooking).
- Wash and dry scallops. If using sea scallops, cut in half (if using bay scallops, leave whole). In a saute pan, add butter and saute scallops over medium-high heat 3 minutes. Remove scallops and set aside.
- To the clam and salmon mixture, add milk, cream, parsley, and salt and pepper (if necessary); bring to a light simmer, then add scallops. (Do not boil with the cream in the mixture.) Remove from heat and serve.