Cooking Great Fall Chowders

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When the air turns crisp with the first cool breezes of fall, nothing tastes better than a good, hot bowl of chowder. And since you can put together a tasty chowder fairly easily in one big pot, it’s a great choice for cooking on board your boat.


Most seafood chowder recipes are based on a few simple ingredients – fish or shellfish, milk, cream, flour, butter, bacon or salt pork, potatoes, onions and, sometimes, tomatoes. The tomato issue can be contentious. A debate between aficionados of red Manhattan-style and white New England-style clam chowder can get heated and go on for hours.


To get some tips for cooking clam chowder, Pilot talked with our favorite chef, the renowned (some would say infamous) Billy Boudreaux, who cooks up a mouth-watering chowder when he’s in one of those moods. Only a spectacular sunset over the water or the Grand Strand could outshine this flavorful favorite.


Chowder that’s rich and thick, but not lumpy, depends on two techniques, says Chef Billy: creating a smooth roux from melted butter and flour and cooking the cream part of the chowder very gently so it doesn’t separate, no. Both require patience and vigilance. Cook very slowly at low temperature, and keep a watchful eye on the pot, stirring frequently.


High-quality canned clams from the grocery store work fine in a pinch, he says, and you can use the juice plus clam stock (thick and gooey) or clam juice (thin and watery) from a can or jar. If you prefer, as Billy does, buy fresh clams from a reliable seafood market – like Harrelson’s in Murrells Inlet – adding the stock or juice.


Here’s Chef Billy’s recipe, along with his instructions for a clam chowder your boating companions will long remember. To reduce the restaurant-size formula to a more intimate half-gallon, quantities have been divided by four. Use your judgment for amounts of vegetables and spices.


What You'll Need:

½ pound bacon

Garlic, shallots, celery and onions

½ pound butter

3/8 pound flour

1-¼ qts. Clam stock

Potatoes, cooked and diced

1 pt. half-and-half

1 c. heavy whipping cream

¾ pound clams

Fresh thyme

Kosher salt

White pepper


How'd He Do It?

Chop bacon and brown with chopped garlic and shallots. Add chopped celery and onions and cook lightly.


Add butter and flour and cook slowly into a smooth roux, stirring constantly.


Add clam stock, bring to a boil, and simmer slowly until thick. Add thyme, salt and pepper to taste.


Add half-and-half and cream and simmer for 20 minutes. Keep temperature low and stir often to keep cream from separating.


Add clams and potatoes and continue to simmer just until heated through. It's just that easy.

Chef Billy Boudreaux’s

Clam Chowder

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