Growing up, I never felt any inclination to try new foods. It was partly due to my assumption that my parents knew what good foods were out there and I could just trust that whatever they cooked was what food I should try, but it was also in part because I—like most children—was perfectly happy eating Chex Mix and Girl Scout cookies (not that there’s anything wrong with Girl Scout cookies. I could eat those Samoas for days).
Clam chowder was one of those things that I never really got the chance to taste—except for one day at school where they were serving it in the cafeteria. But I’m 99% sure that it was something from a can. Or several cans. Enough to feed the school, at any rate.
So I never really had a stellar experience with clam chowder—which is why I never bothered ordering it at restaurants or seeking it out wherever I was.
But the more I started cooking for myself, the more I was side-eyeing chowders. I just had to try making it.
I need to put out a full disclaimer, though. This is by no means a traditional clam chowder—New England or otherwise. It’s simplified in a way that makes it a lot more accessible—and lower fat too. Instead of using cream and butter, I opted for milk and oil. Different taste, I know, but it still ended up being incredibly tasty.
And fennel. Gosh, I love fennel. I’m not going to lie—before I started chopping it up, I just stood there and inhaled that wonderful licorice smell. Yeah. I’m weird.
This is a great way to try your hand at chowder without venturing for something too complicated or indulgent. And it’s just perfect for all those cold winter days.
2 medium onions, diced
1/2 bulb fennel, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 can clams
2-3 large potatoes, chopped
salt + pepper
fennel fronds, to garnish
1. In a Dutch oven on medium heat, drizzle some oil in and once hot, add in onions, fennel, celery, and garlic
2. Once the onions are translucent, add in the 3 tablespoons of oil, and after a few seconds, add in the equal parts of flour. Stir continuously to prevent from burning.
3. Once combined and a roux forms, slowly add in milk while still mixing.
4. Add in the clams as well as the clam juice from the can.
5. Fill the can with water twice or three times (as you see fit) so that it catches some of the leftover clam flavor from the can and add it into the pot.
6. Add in potatoes. Cover on low heat and allow to simmer for at least half an hour.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer into bowls and garnish with fennel fronds.