This post was sponsored by the Idaho® Potato Commission. All opinions are my own.
There are soups. And then there are chowders. You’d best not lop them together into one kettle, or the chowder cops will come knocking at your door. Chowders, typically rich and creamy with chunks of seafood and vegetables, probably originated in France (since it’s thought the word ‘chowder’ comes from ‘chaudiere’, the pot fishermen used for cooking their catch up with potatoes and other vegetables), and brought to New England by French settlers.
Many moons ago, I lived in Boston, and for a month rented an apartment in Gloucester (pronounced Glawster). It was practically next door to a restaurant on the fishing wharves that had the best clam chowder I’ve still ever had. The locals treated it with reverence, and would never have referred to it as simply soup. They were fanatics about their New England clam chowder.
That reverence comes close to how I feel about a bowl of Island Chowder I slurped down in 10 seconds a couple of months ago when we were vacationing on the island of Kauai. It was full of potatoes and clams, but lightened with coconut milk. Sounds simple, but I gave serious thought to infiltrating the kitchen and somehow stealing the whole pot.
As soon as I got back home, I started to experiment. My friends at the Idaho Potato Commission had asked if I’d be interested in creating a recipe for them, so the stars were aligning for this recipe. I experimented a bit, but the broth I ended up with is an aromatic liquid of coconut milk, cow milk, ginger, garlic, limes, and a vegetable bouillon cube. Clams and potatoes, thickened with a light roux, are added to the pot along with clam broth. The finished chowder is topped with crushed macadamia nuts and a flurry of parsley.
I use canned clams and the clam juice included in the can for a quick dinner, but feel free to steam your own. Coarsely chop, and add to the pot along with any juices.
Just make sure to make a double batch. You’ll need it.
You can mince your own ginger and garlic if that’s your thing. Or you can buy Stir-In Garlic Paste and Lightly Dried Ginger from Gourmet Garden. Up to you.
Idaho® Potato Island Chowder
- 2 13.66-ounce cans lite coconut milk
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 3 tablespoons minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- zest from 2 limes
- 1 cube vegetable bouillon cube
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons minced lemongrass
- 2/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 2/3 cup finely chopped celery
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups peeled and diced Idaho® russet potatoes (3 large Idaho® potatoes)
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tins chopped clams with clam juice (there should be a total of 1/2 cup clam juice)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- salt, if needed
- 6 macadamia nuts, crushed, for garnish
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley for garnish
- Stir together the milks, ginger, garlic, lime zest, and bouillon cube in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. A Le Creuset pot is perfect for this! Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and put a lid on the pot to keep the chowder broth warm.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is bubbling, add the lemongrass, sweet onion, and celery. Sauté the vegetables until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle the flour over the softened lemongrass, onion, and celery, and vigorously whisk it all together to completely coat the vegetables. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes, frequently tossing around the skillet, or until it all begins to lightly brown. Add the diced potatoes, and gradually whisk in the vegetable broth, a little at a time.
- Stir in the clams and clam juice, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the liquid thickens into a sauce-like consistency.
- Pour everything into the large pot holding the warm coconut milk broth, add the black pepper, and continue to simmer for 5 minutes to meld together the flavors. Correct for salt if needed. (The vegetable bouillon cube typically provides all the salt needed.)
- Ladle into chowder bowls. Crush the macadamia nuts using the flat side of a chef’s knife and sprinkle over each bowl along with a pinch of parsley.
Vegetarian Tip: To make this chowder vegetarian, eliminate the clams and clam juice, add an additional ½ cup of vegetable broth, and another russet potato.