By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey Johnson of Café Johnsonia.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day today! Perhaps you’re cooking up a batch of Slow Cooker Corned Beef & Cabbage? Well, speaking of slow cooker meals, I have another recipe in my slow-cooker series to share today and it’s a classic: Clam Chowder!
Do you have a chowder-loving family? We seem to like every variation — potato chowder, corn chowder, and especially clam chowder. If we’re at a restaurant and clam chowder is on the menu, there’s a very high chance that I’ll order at least a cup of it. So it’s a no brainer that we would like to make it at home as well.
One new take on it now that we live in the Bay Area is serving it in sourdough bread bowls — it’s a San Francisco tradition! Since sourdough bread bowls are so easy to come by here, they’re a happy addition to our menu, but it’s certainly not a necessity. When we didn’t live here, we ate our clam chowder from bowls served with oyster crackers, crusty baguette, or even soda crackers on the side.
Making clam chowder in the slow cooker takes a little longer, but allows the flavors to meld nicely — and there’s that bonus of prepping it in the morning and not having to think about it again till dinner. It’s super easy to put together. The only fancy ingredient is the clam juice, which isn’t 100% necessary, but adds more flavor. The bacon adds a little smokiness that goes well with the clams. Make sure to check out the notes below for variations and other tips for our very favorite clam chowder.
Also, I’m curious as can be: do you prefer Manhattan Clam Chowder (pink) or Boston Clam Chowder (white)?
Slow Cooker Clam Chowder
12-16 ounces bacon, diced
2 onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cans minced or chopped clams, do not drain
8 ounce bottle clam juice
4 cups water
2 cups heavy cream
6 large potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and fresh ground black pepper
fresh parsley, for garnish
bread bowls (preferably sourdough!) for serving (optional)
Have a slow cooker ready to go. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced bacon. Cook, stirring often, until bacon is crisp and the fat has been rendered. Remove the bacon from the skillet with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Set aside to cool. Then refrigerate until ready to serve the chowder.
Carefully spoon out all but 1-2 Tablespoons of the bacon fat. (Place the bacon fat in a glass jar or bowl, let cool, then refrigerate for another use.) Add the onions and celery to the skillet. Cook for 5-10 minutes, scraping up any cooked on bits from the bacon. Add the garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds more.
Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker, making sure to scrape the skillet clean with a spatula or wooden spoon.
To the slow cooker, add the clam juice, undrained canned clams, water, cream, potatoes, and thyme. Stir well. Place lid on slow cooker and set to HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 6-8 hours.
Check to see that the potatoes are tender. Taste and season well with salt and pepper. Warm up the reserved bacon. Ladle into bowls or bread bowls and garnish with the reserved diced bacon and fresh parsley.
Yield: 8-10 servings
– For a thicker clam chowder, add 2-4 Tablespoons corn or arrowroot starch mixed with some of the water or cream at the beginning of cooking time. Flour can also be used, but it loses its thickening power after long cooking times.
– For a heartier chowder, add other diced veggies like carrots, leeks, or extra potatoes.
– For a hint of spice, add a few shakes of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne.
– Fresh clams can be used in place of canned. Use about 5-6 pounds clams, scrub them clean, steam with a little water. Discard any that don’t open. Reserve any juices to add to the chowder. Pour them through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth to remove any sand or sediment. Remove the clams from their shells and roughly chop. Proceed with recipe as directed.
-This recipe can be done on the stovetop in a stockpot. It will take about 30-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Be sure to stir often so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
P.S. — More slow cooker recipes that my family loves here.