advice on thickening clam chowder..

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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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Well you guys suck for instant advice! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/bounce.gif

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.
 
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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.
 
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The potatoes are supposed to do the thickening.

If you are making Manhattan clam chowder, you deserve whatever is happening to you! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/tongue.gif

Mike
 
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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!

 
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    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
 
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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.
 
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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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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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"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  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/confused.gif
 
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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!/img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif
 
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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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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.
 
        /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lookaround.gif    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 
 
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 Cornstarch is used  in a schlock house not a class operation. It's roux and potato 
 
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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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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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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.
 
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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.
 
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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
 
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