Maritimes influence: Michael Smith's Maritime clam chowder

By Julie Van Rosendaal on June 29, 2012
Host of Chef Abroad, Chef at Home, Chef at Large and The Inn Chef on Food Network Canada (as well as over 100 other countries), Chef Michael Smith has been one of Canada’s best-known celebrity chefs for well over a decade. As the official food ambassador of Prince Edward Island, Chef Michael is a proud and vocal supporter of the local food movement, promoting our Canadian food system from coast to coast. Although his home is on P.E.I., he welcomed visitors from around the world to the west coast during the 2010 Winter Olympics, leading the team of chefs who cooked for the Olympians in Athletes’ Village in Whistler, B.C. Being a celebrity chef keeps him on the road a lot, but Michael loves to be at home with his partner Chastity, her daughter Ariella, his son Gabriel and their new baby – on the way at press time. Watch for his latest cookbook, Fast Flavours (Penguin), to hit store shelves this September, and his new Food Network show, Chef Michael’s Kitchen, to air this fall. Michael shared a classic maritime dish – clam chowder – which he says is just as authentic made inland, with canned clam meat.

Michael says Maritimers don’t worry whether their chowders are authentic. They know a true clam chowder is just a bowl full of simple, hearty flavours, often using canned clams and always stir in onions, potatoes and milk.


Ingredients:

4 slices of bacon, chopped
a splash of water
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
a generous splash of white wine
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
1 cup (250 ml) milk
2 5 oz (142 g) cans clam meat
1 large baking potato (unpeeled), coarsely grated
2 bay leaves
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 14 oz (375 mL) can unsweetened evaporated milk or 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) regular milk
a sprinkle or two of sea salt
freshly ground pepper
handful flat leaf parsley leaves

Freestyle variations:
For a distinctive flavour, try adding a spoonful or two of horseradish to the chowder. For a luxurious special-occasion treat, add lots of smoked salmon. You may also try stirring in one of your favourite fresh herbs at the last second. Dill and tarragon are traditional, as are green onions. You can also stir in chunks of any fish you like, even canned tuna.


Directions:

1. Toss the bacon pieces into a thickbottomed stockpot with a splash of water. By adding water to the raw bacon you’re less likely to burn it as it gradually releases its fat and browns evenly.

2. Stir over medium-high heat until the bacon crisps nicely.

3. Pour off most of the fat. Add another splash of water to loosen the flavourful bits on the bottom and then add the onions and celery. Sauté them for a few minutes until they soften and smell great.

4. Add the white wine, cream, milk, clam meat, grated potato and the bay and thyme leaves. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer, stirring frequently. Turn the heat down a notch or two and continue simmering until the grated potato softens, releasing its starches and thickening the chowder, about 20 minutes. (A baking potato is the best choice for thickening the chowder because its high-starch, low-moisture flesh dissolves so easily.)

5. Add the evaporated (or regular milk) and continue stirring until it’s heated through. Taste the chowder and season it well with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately. If you like, this chowder can be made a day or two in advance and then reheated – its flavour actually gets better when it rests overnight.

Serves 4.


Reprinted with permission from The Best of Chef at Home by Chef Michael Smith (Whitecap Books).

Originally published in ParentsCanada, July 2012

By Julie Van Rosendaal| June 29, 2012

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