Thursday, July 18, 2013

Classic New England Clam Chowder *Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free*

Clam chowder is a staple of New England restaurants. You'll find it on every menu, from classy eat-in restaurants to the smallest take-away seafood shack. After you order your cup (or bowl) you'll probably receive a slight variation of a viscous, floury, monochromatic chowder and a tiny bag of crunchy oyster crackers. 

Living on the South Shore, this was my only experience with chowdah and that was perfectly fine with me for a long time! I was vaguely aware of these things called "Manhattan Clam Chowder" and "Rhode Island Clam Chowder" but you certainly wouldn't find either of these in any of the restaurants I frequented, so I remained blissfully unaware. 

Not too long AGF (after gluten-free) I realized that while there aren't a lot of gluten-free soups ready-to-eat, soup in general is really easy to make gluten-free. Still, clam chowder was never something I looked into making because I always assumed it was too hard or contained too much gluten to substitute and still taste good. 

Fast forward to this June, I was waiting at Burke's Seafood in Quincy, MA for my order of broiled seafood with delicious gluten-free crumbs while thumbing through a cookbook they had for sale. I came across an astoundingly simple recipe for seafood chowder that could easily be made gluten-free! 

I was really excited. At some point that weekend I picked up the few things I needed at the store for it, including canned clams to keep costs low, and set to work. The recipe itself is very simple and after ingredient preparation, is really only two steps. 

It is also very adaptable for those of us with food sensitivities which is unheard of in the world of chowders. I first made this gluten-free, and then again gluten-free and lactose-free using Lactaid milk! I'm certain it could be made dairy-free as well with a rice milk or other alternative.  Also feel free to get creative with the ingredients. You can very easily include fish chunks or shrimp or scallops. Bacon bits would also be killer in this.

Now, before we get to the actual recipe, what is chowder without oyster crackers? Boring, that's what. I found a great recipe here for oyster crackers: Why Can't Wheat Be Friends Oyster Crackers.

Classic New England Clam Chowder
I pound of clam meat canned or fresh, whole belly or diced
2 cups of water and 1 bouillon cube (you could use chicken, vegetable, or fish) or two cups low sodium stock 
1 small onion diced 
3 large or 6 small potatoes washed and cut into small chunks (I left skin on)
2 stalks of celery diced
3 carrots sliced 
1 tsp dried dill or 1 tbsp fresh dill
1/2 tsp ground pepper
Sea salt to taste ( the stock may have enough salt)
2 13 oz cans of evaporated milk
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp chopped parsley 

Combine clams, stock, onions, potatoes, and celery, carrots, dill, and pepper in a 4 quart pan. Cover and bring to simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. 

Add 1 can of evaporated milk and stir. Mix flour with remaining can of milk. Bring back to a simmer for 15 min, or until thickened. 

Gluten-Free Substitutions
To make this chowder gluten-free you will have to use the following substitutions:
Gluten-free stock like Swanson's or gluten-free bouillon like Rapunzel's. 
2 tablespoons gluten-free flour mix, I am partial to Jule's gluten-free flour. You could probably use cornstarch as a substitution but I would start with just 1 tablespoon as it seems to thicken quicker than "flour."
Also please check that your evaporated milk is gluten-free, if not you can substitute regular milk. 

Lactose and Dairy-Free Substitutions
In place of the evaporated milk I used Lactaid whole milk and it was excellent.  
You may also use a milk substitute like almond milk, or rice milk, or whatever you prefer!

Please excuse the iPhone photos.

I used a frosting tip to cut out the tiny crackers.

Last but not least, if you don't tell people its gluten and dairy free, they will never know! Trust me.