Recipe: Monterey Fishermans Wharf Clam Chowder

Grab a blanket, a good book and cozy up to the perfect bowl of Clam Chowder.  

This is one of my most requested recipes.  Inspired by the rich and legendary clam chowders of Old Fishermans Wharf in Monterey, California, this clam chowder is a culinary tour of our historic seaside town -- It's the salt air on your skin, the sound of the sea lions and gulls, the slow fog drifting across the bay, and the flavors of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row.  

This fall, my catering students had the opportunity to share this edible history at the concession stand for home football games at Breaker Stadium.  We certainly won over the fans, and may have even inspired the envy of our opponents.  Beloved to families on the Monterey Peninsula and sure to become a favorite in your own home, I present the PGHS Culinary original:

Monterey’s Fishermans Wharf Clam Chowder
Yield 4-6 servings

2/3 cup diced carrot (¼” dice) 
¼ cup small diced onion 
1/3 cup celery, (washed and ¼” dice)
1 cup medium diced red potato, skin on
2 slices bacon, cut into small pieces with scissors, ¼” strips
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (half stick)
2 small cloves of garlic or one large, minced -- very fine
1 ½ cups clam juice
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced -- or -- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
8 ounces chopped clams (1 cup, drained)
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1:  Place the potato in a small microwave safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Microwave for two minutes.

Step 2:  Place carrot, onion, par-cooked potato, celery, butter and bacon in a Dutch oven.  Saute over medium-high heat until vegetables are tender Be careful not to burn the bacon.  Taste to make sure vegetables are cooked through (especially carrots and potato) before moving on to step 2.

Step 2:  When vegetables are tender and bacon is cooked through, (not at all crisp) stir in flour to make a roux.  Reduce heat to medium. Stir with a rubber scraper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to cook off the raw taste of the flour.  

Step 3:  Add clam juice and milk.  Stir by using a large wire whisk to break up the roux and incorporate into the liquids.  Immediately proceed to step 4.

Step 4:  Stir in the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and clams.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly with the rubber scraper (scraping the bottom to prevent burning), then reduce to medium low (simmer) for 5 minutes or until the chowder achieves the desired level of thickness.  Taste and check the potatoes for doneness.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve with crusty sourdough bread or oyster crackers.

Tip: Remove chowder from heat before it reaches your desired thickness. It will thicken as it cools. If you leave it to cook too long, and it becomes too thick, you can thin it out with more clam juice or milk.


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