If you’ve ever been to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, you’ve undoubtedly seen their world famous clam chowder in a bread bowl, steam rising up in little swirls, the rich buttery milk mixed with chewy, salty clams. I’ve never actually had clam chowder in a bread bowl, or any other chowder in a bowl, for that matter- but I have to admit wishing that I could, just to see what it was like. What could be better than food served inside food, like goat cheese inside a green olive, some gourmet stuffed Italian vegetable, or fruit sorbet in a frozen hollowed out peach……
I’ve always had a secret fondness for clam chowder. I remember when I first learned to make it out of the Better Homes and Garden cookbook in college. I liked it so much I made it once a week for weeks on end, until my friends begged me to stop. “Don’t you like clam chowder?” I asked. “Sure, we liked it for the first month,” they said plaintively. Realizing my efforts were being wasted, I cut back for a while. But what wasn’t to like in clam chowder? Now keep in mind, I’m firmly planted in the New England tradition. None of this newfangled acidic tomato soup for me- I’m all about the creamy, milky sauce, the chewy clams, and one of my favorite gluten free ingredients, the potato. It’s so good, so easy, relatively fast, and so forgiving.
The other day I was thumbing through Gluten Free for Dummies and I happened across a recipe by Danna Korn for a Chebe Soup/Chowder Bowl. It sounded easy enough- basically mix up a batch of Chebe original or All-purpose, with or without cheese, press it into a 3/4 inch thick crust in oven proof bowls (I used corningware) and bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes. If they don’t get brown and crispy enough for your taste, remove the bread bowl from the baking dish, turn them upside down onto a cookie sheet and bake until golden all over. Turn right side up and pour hot clam chowder into the bread bowls and enjoy!
I finally made this recipe last night. I made the dough without cheese, feeling that I didn’t need the extra calories, and I had just enough dough for two small (7 oz) ramekins and one larger dish. It baked up beautifully, and was a very sturdy bowl for soup. I did feel that the bowl was a bit “chewy”, which was also my estimation of Chebe as a pizza crust. I had a small soup bowl the first night, and then had the larger soup bowl with chowder for lunch. Because chebe gets even chewier when microwaved, I heated the bowl in a very hot oven for about ten minutes. It became nice and crispy; even crispier than it was the first night. The crunchy, crispy crust was really good with the creamy clam chowder. The only thing is- I realized, I had no idea how to eat clam chowder in a bowl- eat the crust and the chowder oozes out, eat the soup and, well, what about the bowl? Ah well, I think this definitely fits under the heading of a good problem to have…
New England Clam Chowder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter +
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk (cubed)
3 tablespoons GF flour (I used Authentic Foods brown rice, but Bette Hagman’s gluten free blend would also be good)
2 cups vegetable stock
2 (10-ounce) cans chopped clams in juice
1 cup milk (i used skim but it’s up to you)
2 bay leaves
1 pound potatoes, cut into 1/2- inch cubes- I used small red potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and saute until softened, mixing often. Stir in the flour to distribute evenly. Add the stock, juice from 2 cans of chopped clams (reserve clams), milk, bay leaves, and potatoes and stir to combine. Add one tablespoon of butter (if you used skim milk). Bring to a simmer, stirring consistently (the mixture will thicken), then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 20 minutes, stirring often, until the potatoes are nice and tender. Then add clams and season to taste with salt and pepper, cook until clams are just firm, another 2 minutes.