Paleo Clam Chowder

2013-01-29
The inspiration for this dish came from Chef Will Leroux’s Clam Chowder recipe in Relish magazine.  There is something magical about a creamy seafood chowder, and I have always loved clam chowder.  However, given my aim of healthy eating, I am not normally drawn to chowder recipes because they contain a lot of cream and butter.  I kept this recipe in hopes of making it Paleo, and the result was probably the best Paleo recipe adaptation yet!  Seriously.

I have been working with cauliflower so much lately that I’ve not only discovered the many yummy “rice” variations, but also delicious faux potatoes and that it is a fabulous thickening agent.  The original clam chowder recipe called for butter, flour and half and half to achieve its creamy texture.  I simply used a can of coconut milk, a large head of cauliflower steamed, and a small amount of coconut oil for softening the onion, celery and garlic.

Having a Vitamix ensured that the cauliflower blended to a silky mixture with the coconut milk and spices.  However, an immersion blender or standard blender should be able to create the same creamy mixture given that the boiled cauliflower is soft enough to break apart easily.  Simply blend on high until ingredients emulsify and contains no lumps.

I was happily surprised that the chef suggested using canned clams.  I used Bumble Bee Chopped Clams with the juice.  I halved the amounts of the original recipe because I didn’t want to worry about finishing two quarts of soup, but you’ll still need four cans of 6.5 ounce clams!  Luckily, it is not an expensive ingredient, and the flavor payoff is huge!  I almost wish I’d made two quarts…

There is a very small amount of bacon in this dish, but it is still a crucial element.  I enjoy buying Oscar Meyer Selects Smoked Bacon with No Nitrates or Preservatives.  To be stirred in the soup I microwaved only two pieces of bacon on a special tray that keeps bacon crispy and separates grease (to be used later of course!).  I suggest microwaving a few extra to be crumbled on top for a garnish!  I used a 1/2-1  teaspoon of the bacon drippings just to add a little extra flavor, and I’m glad I did.  Overall, the soup contains very little “oil” in the form of coconut oil and bacon. Using the full-fat coconut milk doesn’t make this a low fat dish, but it is a quality fat (read about some of its benefits).

I am so proud of the results of this recipe, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!  Dare I say it?  It made me feel as happy as a clam. :)

I’m normally not afraid to use the microwave to reheat a meal, but I suggest reheating the leftover soup on the stove on medium-low heat.  Stir the soup frequently and avoid bringing the soup to a boil so you don’t toughen the clams.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, rinsed, stems removed and cut into florets
  • 1-2 tbs coconut oil
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 4 (6.5 oz) canned chopped clams in juice (I used Bumble Bee brand)
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • scant 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2-3 pieces of bacon + 1/2 tsp bacon drippings
  • 1-2 dashes Tabasco sauce

Instructions

  • 1. Fill large pot about 3/4 of the way with water, and bring it up to a boil
  • 2. Add cauliflower florets, and when water gets back up to a boil, cap and set timer for 5 minutes
  • 3. When timer goes off, pour cauliflower into a strainer, and set aside to cool
  • 4. Heat dutch oven or nonstick skillet on medium/med-high and melt coconut oil
  • 5. Add onion, celery and saute until onions are transparent and celery is softened, 5-10 minutes (capping the pan helps speed up the process)
  • 6. Turn down temperature to medium-low/low, and stir in garlic
  • 7. Add clams and clam juice and cook 20-30 minutes (DO NOT BOIL or the clams will become tough)
  • 8. Meanwhile, add coconut milk, cauliflower, thyme, salt, and pepper to Vitamix or blender, a mix on high until smooth and creamy
  • 9. Pour cauliflower mixture into clams, and cook until flavors are incorporated, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes)
  • 10. Meanwhile, cook bacon, crumble, then add pieces and about 1/2 teaspoon of bacon drippings to soup
  • 11. Stir for another 1-2 minutes, add a dash or two of Tabasco, then remove from heat and serve
  • 12. Enjoy!