Usually associated with Northeastern America, where a hearty clam chowder is a staple on many New England menus, this version has a distinct French kick. Chef Kit Smyth’s Chaudrée Française, or French Chowder, is perfect throughout the year, but all the more so as the days draw shorter.
With its abundance of fresh fish and shellfish, and of course world renowned dairy products, France’s rich gastronomic traditions ensure this thick and creamy soup is perfect for any dinner table.
Ingredients for 6 portions
1 cup/200g lardons/thick-cut bacon batons
1 Tbsp/20ml olive oil
2 Tsp/10ml butter
1 Large/150gr onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 shot/30ml Vermouth, or ½ cup/100ml white wine, dry – Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
½ cup/65g all-purpose flour
2 large/300g potatoes, waxy, diced large
1 cup/250ml single cream, or thinned creme fraiche
1 cup/250ml fish stock, including tinned/canned clam juice if using.
1 Tsp each dried Tarragon, chives, parsley
300g Seafood: you can use any of the following combinations, depending on what is available in your area and within the season.
Option 1: Clams, tinned or fresh, but keep the juice if using tinned.
Option 2: Seafood mix – often comes with mussels, cockles, calamari rings, etc.
Option 3: Cod or other white fish: always good, but do stir the soup with care, as the chunks can break up.
Heat a large saucepan, or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, and add the lardons, gently frying until any fat has dissolved and only nice chunks of bacon remain. Remove half and keep for later.
Add the oil and butter to the pan, and wait for the butter to foam. When ready, add the onions and garlic, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the onion is soft and just caramelising. Sprinkle the flour over and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Increase the heat to high, wait 30 seconds, and add the vermouth/white wine, then stir vigorously to scrape all the flavourful bits from the bottom of the pan.
Note: BE CAREFUL, the pan will be HOT and adding alcohol can cause spontaneous flames. It’s advisable to step back as you pour the alcohol in, and allow it to ‘flash’ before returning to inspect.
Add the diced potatoes, and the stock/canned juices, together with the herbs, cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
Lifting the lid, add the seafood selection, stir thoroughly and check the potatoes for doneness. Re-cover and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.
When cooked, add the single cream or a healthy dollop of creme fraiche to the potatoes, and bring to a gentile simmer.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, and sprinkle the reserved bacon lardons over the top, or fresh parsley if you prefer.
Kit Smyth is a retired chef with a passion for French cuisine. Originally from Australia, Kit is dedicated to exploring both old and new ingredients, techniques and styles, and developing recipes for home cooks, she also teaches these recipes online and in-person. Find out more at her website: TheBiteLine