The clam is out of the shell: Great Room Chowder

Long Beach Lodge Resort’s chowder has its own unique character and is, many have suggested, the best darn chowder anywhere.

White, red, clear, corn or seafood: the debate rages and will likely never end.

The one certainty is people are passionate about their chowder.

Tofino clam chowderSo much deliberation and debate about a centuries-old stew of modest origin. According to Yankee Magazine, the name is thought to derive from the French chaudière, referring not only to the “cauldron” but the ingredients within.

The earliest published recipe is from the September 23, 1751, edition of the Boston Evening Post: “A layered “chouder” of onion, potatoes, salt pork, and fish (milk came later) was seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbs such as thyme, and served with hard crackers or “Biscuit.” Later, flour or cracker crumbs were added as a thickener. Over time, that evolutionary tree split further, yielding lobster chowder, Manhattan clam chowder, corn chowder, chicken chowder—enough variations to make an old salt sputter in indignation.”

While chowder’s origins are decidedly on the Eastern Seaboard, west coast chefs, restaurants and enthusiasts have, for decades, been putting their own stamp and style on this legendary dish. Salmon, halibut and number of other regional flora and fauna help make a west coast chowder a unique experience. As does the thickness and consistency of the broth (while there are exceptions, many west coast chowders are thinner than their east coast counterparts).

Long Beach Lodge Resort’s Great Room Chowder has its own unique character and is, many have suggested, the best darn chowder anywhere, east, west, north or south.

The recipe was developed by the Resort’s executive chef Ian Riddick and is characterized as being fragrant with the licorice flavour of fennel.

Served with fresh baked sourdough baguette (or another rustic, freshly-baked loaf) whipped butter and in a wide, shallow bowl, many lunches and dinners have been spent gazing at the ocean, sopping bread in the creamy broth, trying to make the moment (and chowder) last just a little bit longer.

While the fennel does impart a modest essence of licorice, the shellfish lucre, fin fish, cream and butter are the real stars.

Simply put, chef Riddick’s Great Room Chowder is incredible and an essential ingredient to the Tofino experience.

For the many current enthusiasts of Great Room Chowder and all of the future aficionados, chef Riddick has let the clam, so to speak, out of the shell and agreed to share his recipe.


Long Beach Lodge Resort’s Great Room Chowder

This recipe by Ian Riddick, executive chef at Long Beach Lodge Resort in Tofino, is fragrant with the licorice flavour of fennel.

  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) butter
  • 1 fresh fennel bulb, centre core removed, sliced thin
  • 2 medium-large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 large white onion diced
  • 1 medium leek, white part only, diced
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 5 to 6 sprigs chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups (500 mL) fish stock or clam nectar
  • 2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (250 mL) diced fish, such as halibut, salmon or ling cod
  • 18 fresh mussels, shell on
  • 18 fresh clams, shell on
  • Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill and/or chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add fennel, potato, onion and leek. Cook, continue stirring until vegetables are just tender but not brown, about 10 minutes.

Add bay leaves and thyme, fish stock or clam juice, and cream. Simmer until chowder thickens slightly and flavours blend, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add lemon zest and add salt and pepper to taste.

The chowder can be made ahead to this point, and stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.

To complete the dish: Dice fish, scrub mussels and clams, and remove the beards from the mussels. Set aside.

Reheat the chowder base over medium heat until it reaches a simmer. Add the shellfish and fish and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly.

Check that all shellfish has opened and discard any mussels and clams that do not. Season with salt and pepper and add the fresh chopped herbs.

Divide the shellfish and fish into bowls and serve.

Tofino Live