Ask an Expert: Clam Chowder Secrets

By TBSP Nate
Created March 7, 2017
Clam Chowder Secrets
Insider tips, secrets and expert advice on clam chowder. MORE+ LESS-

What lurks beneath the surface of this comfort food? Basically, nom.

Clam chowder has been one of my favorite comfort foods for a long time.

I enjoy it so much, I even break my “no seafood unless I’m on a coast” rule. It’s the perfect antidote to cold days – even for people that don’t usually like clams (myself included). And it makes a great Christmas Eve dish!

You don’t even need a lot of time to enjoy it – just pick up one of the 5 varieties of Progresso clam chowder, add some oyster/saltine crackers and bay leaves on top, and you’re set.

Here are some secrets of clam chowder you might not know:

One name, many recipes. One of the coolest things about clam chowder is the many regional varieties that have evolved over time. Just like tacos or chili, chowder varies greatly depending on where you are in the country. So recipes in the Northeast will be radically different from a Florida variety (with hot peppers!), which will vary from the West Coast (where bread bowls abound). Some feature clear broth, some are creamy, and some are tomato-based. If you find yourself on a coast, be adventurous and seek out the regional specialty!

Want more veggies? Try these Mixed Vegetable Clam ChowderClam Chowder with Artichokes, or Clam Chowder with Greens recipes.

It doesn’t need to be bowl-bound: You can use chowder to create other dishes, like these Clam Chowder Seafood Pasta or Seafood Scalloped Potatoes recipes.

It pays to consult locals. If you’re visiting a coast, you’ll be presented with many different chowder options in any self-respecting tourist trap. Get to know a local (generously tipping a server helps) and ask them where the best chowder is – they’ll likely have a strong opinion.

That’s how I found out the dark secret of the most famous chowder restaurant in Oregon. Once painstakingly made by hand in a time-consuming process involving an elaborate roux, the chowder was now mass-produced, shipped in by truck, and barely a shadow of its former self. The restaurant now adds sand to make it more “authentic”! Blech.

It’s a really old dish. This deliciousness didn’t just spring up in the Northeast in colonial times. It evolved from fish chowders that became popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. Clams were a favorite dish of Native Americans on the East Coast, and it took a while for the European settlers to learn to love clams and incorporate them into chowder. From there, regional cultures started mashing up local ingredients and preferences to make new kinds of clam chowder.

Whether you’re standing in line as a tourist or making it at home, clam chowder is just the thing for chilly days. Since there are plenty of those in the months ahead, get yourself some!