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advice on thickening clam chowder..

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
I took the day off from work, and decided that I would make a meal for tonight, and settled on clam chowder. I rendered down about 6 slices of bacon, and then added some canola oil and then flour to make a roux, but for some reason is was getting very foamy. Maybe the heat was already up too high. In any event, I ended up aborting my roux attempt and just chopped the bacon and then combined that back with scallions, potatoes, and small onions I had prepped. I basically sweat those, and when they looked good, I added clam stock.

Now I am cooking this all day on a very low simmer, and the majority of the stock is milk. In order to thicken it since my roux failed up front, is there any reason to create an actual roux, with say butter and flour to thicken it, or could I simply add a corn starch slurry?

I realize that dishes that desire the flavor a roux imparts (like gumbo) cannot go without the roux, but with something like clam chowder, it's more of a textural concern for me, since the aromatics and the clams are the flavors I want to concentrate. I am however interested in your opinions, it's not too late for me to change this!

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post #2 of 50
Thread Starter 
Well you guys suck for instant advice!

I am pleased to say that it has thickened quite nicely, even though there wasn't much of a roux, I guess the low and slow heat is helping out. It could be thicker, so I keep stirring to make sure nothing sticks and burns, and I guess I'll see where it ends up.
post #3 of 50
LOL.

I was going to say, either use the corn starch, but I don't like using a whole lot of that of that, so a little flour would also work.
post #4 of 50
The potatoes are supposed to do the thickening.

If you are making Manhattan clam chowder, you deserve whatever is happening to you!

Mike
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post #5 of 50
Thread Starter 
Thanks MikeLM.. and yes.. the potatoes are working their starchy magic... I had anticipated it.. when I chose a half gallon of milk. I think I'm ok.. if not.. I'm still ok! It's tasty stuff.. that's why I got bread! I think I need to go harvest my own clams again! You newenglanders got nothing on us Florida crackers!

n507066312_1660446_4131092.jpg
post #6 of 50
    Hi eastshores, 

  

   I remember when my wife and I made the drive to northern Maine (our last trip before the kids came).  We stopped at nearly every shop that was open to try their clam chowder.  While no two bowls were quite the same...none were very thick.  At least not in the way that the bowls of clam chowder that I've gotten in Northern Illinois.

    dan
post #7 of 50
I have a convoluted way of making clam chowder, for whatever reason I never can seem to get the right about of thickening from my roux, and always run into a danger of over cooking the potatoes and other ingredients.  So I quit worrying about it, I start with my basic roux, and when the potatoes and celery and other stuff (clams are not added till end) are tender and soft ( I strain out the everything) leaving just the liquid in the pot.  Now I can take my time and get the mixture to the right consistency, using several methods.  I then add back the ingredients and cook until they are the texture for chowder, and I can easily control the brew getting extra thick by adding more clam stock.
post #8 of 50
Been making this a bunch recently.....
Saute lardons, shallots, minced celery if around, alittle oil
pull bacon out
add flour then 1/2 and 1/2....or if really wanting a clogger 40%
thyme, black pepper, salt, bay leaf/leaves
tato batons
chopped fresh clams....no beach and I'm not sure I'd eat clams from Missouri anyway.

*started using low fat milk and mashing some of the potatoes...not as rich as with  1/2 and 1/2 or cream but still tasty.

Takes all of 30 minutes start to finish.
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post #9 of 50
I was doing Earthday stuff all morning, remember kids, "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished".

Anyway, When I make Clam Chowder I always use fresh shredded potatoes, adjust for size.  If I feel it's not thick enough at that point I usually will add a little cornstarch slurry.
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #10 of 50
"I'm not sure I'd eat clams from Missouri anyway."

I think clams from the Ol' Muddy would scare the he1l out of me
As a kid, I've eaten a lot of catfish out of the Quivre River at Troy... but clams - no way.

Are there really any clams in Missouri?

Mike 
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post #11 of 50
If you need to thicken a roux based soup or sauce on the fly the classic method is a 'beurre manie'...flour and butter rubbed together (an uncooked roux) this prevents lumps.

Otherwise for 16lt I usually cook off the roux separately add the milk component and blitz smooth then add this thick, not cooked out bechamel back in the main pot I've been working at the same time...just speeds things up when your under the hammer!
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post #12 of 50
none were very thick.  At least not in the way that the bowls of clam chowder that I've gotten in Northern Illinois.

Dan, in the ten long years I lived up that way I never had a bowl of clam chowder I would call edible. No matter where it was served they seem to think a chowder is supposed to be library paste with bits of clam and potato suspended in it. More often than not there would be too much potato and the clams would be rubbery as well.

Interestingly, along the East Coast you can trace where you are by how the chowder is made.

In New England, with the exception of Rhode Island, the chowder is dairy based. Rhode Island makes a clear chowder, using only water. New York, of course, makes a tomato-based chowder. The mid-Atlantic (i.e., Jersey, Delaware and Maryland) can be either dairy or clear. If clear, seafood stock is often used. Dairy of choice in New Jersey is cream, rather than milk. Virginia/N. Carolina/S. Carolina chowder is almost always clear. Georgia is mixed, but in my experience they prefer it clear on the islands, but trend towards dairy on the mainland. I've never eaten it in Florida, so don't know their preference.  

In no case, however, is the true gelt thick and pasty as it is in the Midwest.
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post #13 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

none were very thick.  At least not in the way that the bowls of clam chowder that I've gotten in Northern Illinois.

Dan, in the ten long years I lived up that way I never had a bowl of clam chowder I would call edible. No matter where it was served they seem to think a chowder is supposed to be library paste with bits of clam and potato suspended in it. More often than not there would be too much potato and the clams would be rubbery as well.
.  

In no case, however, is the true gelt thick and pasty as it is in the Midwest.
 


           That was my point.  I don't get too concerned with too much thickener in my clam chowder.  If you're using milk, instead of cream, maybe just a little flour to get the mouthfeel of cream.  Milk or cream, onions, potatoes and either salt pork or bacon...then whatever variation. 

   But that's what my preferences.  To me, the Northern MidWest Chowder is a whole different animal.

     dan 
post #14 of 50
 Cornstarch is used  in a schlock house not a class operation. It's roux and potato 

Chef EdB
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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #15 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Buchanan View Post

 Cornstarch is used  in a schlock house not a class operation. It's roux and potato 

In my case, its not schlock, it's a gluten intolerant wife. No roux for me. I try to get by on potato alone.
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post #16 of 50
Cornstarch is used in a schlock house not a class operation. It's roux and potato ---------- Maybe in Florida, but def not in places that know about chowder. It should not be THICK (except with ingredients). It should be, first of all, briny and brothy, and them cream and milky. It should be slurpable, not gummable. Finding a suitable thin,milky chowder is becoming impossible even on Cape Cod. Clam (and fish) chowder is not a white sauce/veloute with clams and onioms and potatoes. It is SOUP.
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Don't mess with dragons. You will be crispy and taste good with catsup.
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post #17 of 50
Thank-you Cape Codder ,
                                        I could not have put it better ...my fathers side landed on the East Coast ...Nova Scotia and that is exactly the defintion of the real Clam Chowder! Lord Tunder ,ya got it right by!

Gypsy
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post #18 of 50

Potato starch slurry is in a number of ways better than cornstarch, because it thickens on contact and doesn't get that weird gummy thing cornstarch often does. It's an excellent substitute for arrowroot, and a heck of a lot cheaper. But I wouldn't put a huge amount of any thickener in chowder: I like a little viscosity, rather than just the mouthfeel of milk and water, but not thick, gloppy paste. For what it's worth, Legal Seafoods, which has won various prizes for its fish and clam chowders, does make it quite thick. I wish they wouldn't, but there you go.

post #19 of 50

If you are on gluten free use instant mashed potato in a pinch it works well. As the classical way is potato thickened only. Purpose of roux in a lot of creamed soups and dishes is substitute for  reduced Heavy Cream roux simulates the same thing when mixed with milk  at a fraction of cost.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #20 of 50

Thank you for this great idea on thicking clam chowder.  Been making it for 50 years and always have trouble getting the right thickness.

I tried your method and it was perfect, and so easy.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Emery

post #21 of 50

The mashed potato alone, which should be part of the recipe is supposed to thicken the chowdah properly.  Thickening beyond that is only conforming to those outside of Boston as to how a chowdah should be.  Unfortunately, large canning companies thickened the true consistency of chowdah to what people in Kansas to be the real deal; it is nothing but wallpaper paste with a few rubber bands.  This has altered the way people THINK chowdah should be made to be thick.  It is not however and proper cooking technique with the low heat and mashing the potato in the pot is how it really should be done.  If you dip a fork in the chowdah it should not stick like glue.

post #22 of 50

Ayep.

 

BDL

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post #23 of 50

Some white bread or Baguette crust removed and heated in some milk or cream works well.

Remember, you paid for the ingredients so you can make it as thick or as thin as you want.

Rules are made to be broken

post #24 of 50

Dissolve  a little arrowroot in the clam juice, add slowly to the warm soup.

post #25 of 50

i would not use corn starch its for more clear thickening, and would use an uncooked flour an water mix if your looking for thickness but the potatoes should do the job

 

post #26 of 50

for what its worth a method for enhanced chowda thickening taught to me by an old chowder cook from maine the smooth cut edges of potato pieces retard the infusion of potato starches into the chowda when cutting the potato the knife blade should only penitrate 1/4 way though potato then by twisting the blade snap apiece of potato off larger piece leaving arough surface on potato piece this rough surface allows starch to infuse chowder much more rapidly and eliminates the need for corn starch etc. if you try this it will be readily apparent how much better this works give it a try let me know what you think----bob

post #27 of 50

I have worked in many French kitchens over the last 50 or so years ,a lot of them will not permit a box of cornstarch or a microwave oven in the kitchen.  Cornstarch only in the pastry shop was permitted.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #28 of 50

Clam chowder is what I had decided on for dinner tonight, before reading this thread. I use my father's recipe, so there is no attempt at authenticity. It does not call for a roux, it is thickened by the potato. I have also added my own twist by adding a can of cream corn. That also adds to the thickness but it is essentially a brothy briney soup. I don't appreciate a creamy clam chowder, I add a little bit of 2% milk to mine.

post #29 of 50

If you're planning on holding the soup for any length of time, arrowroot won't hold up.  It lasts a few hours if you're lucky.  By and large arrowroot is used as a thickener when there's a lot of alcohol or acid -- i.e., when corn starch won't work well; and or when gloss and clarity are very important.  But arrowroot is very delicate.  Not only will it fail over time, but it can't take boiling.

 

Corn starch is used as a thickener when clarity and gloss are important and something sturdier than arrowroot is important.  Unfortunately, while corn starch will hold up better than arrowroot, it's also fairly fragile over time or high heat. 

 

To my mind, neither is appropriate for the Boston clam chowder we're talking about.  

 

Either use a blond roux, the potato trick, if your chowder is mostly cream  you can do a straight reduction.  When I make a Boston style clam chowder I start by cooking bacon lardons, setting them aside and leaving the fat in the pan.  I sweat onions and leek in the fat, then add a little flour and cook until the raw is off the flour and I have a loose blonde roux.  I mash or rice some cooked potato and add that to the roux, then add clam juice, milk and cream, season with salt and white pepper, and bring to a boil only as long as takes for the roux to thicken as much as it's going to -- about two or three minutes.  I reduce the heat to a bare simmer, add the cooked, diced potatoes, clams, the reserved bacon lardons, (sometimes some finely chopped sorrel or tarragon), and allow the flavors to marry -- about twenty minutes.   

 

Serve with crackers; saltines, hardtack, or oyster crackers are all good.  A good hot sauce, though surely not traditional, goes better than you might think. 

 

The potatoes do most of the thickening, the roux holds the potato/milk binding and keeps things smooth; so portion and proportion the thickeners appropriately.  You don't want your chowder too thick, a light nappe is right.  If you like a very thick and sturdy soup, crush some crackers and stir them in.  

 

BDL

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post #30 of 50

Your  dad was right it should be thickened with potato.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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