Recipe: Northwest Clam Chowder

Hearty and soothing, this rich seafood soup from a classic Oregon lodge adds snap with bacon, thyme, and brandy.

Crater Lake Lodge's Northwest Clam Chowder, image

The signature seafood chowder offered at Crater Lake Lodge is surprisingly easy to make.

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Northwest Clam Chowder from the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room, Crater Lake, Ore.
Requested by Via reader Steve Folino of Sacramento.

Creamy, velvety, chock-full of tender clams, and with the added kick of brandy—this is the epitome of chowder that soothes and satisfies.

Northwest clam chowder, made with locally grown potatoes, smoky bacon, and fragrant thyme, is a staple that diners can’t get enough of at the historic Crater Lake Lodge (Rim Village Drive, Crater Lake, Ore., 541-594-2255 x 3217, craterlakelodges.com). The warm, rich chowder is the perfect pick-me-up, especially in this breathtaking national park, where there was snow on the ground every month in 2010. Enjoy it at lunch or dinner in the Dining Room with quite the view—perched right on the edge of the volcanic basin overlooking the deepest lake in the United States and one of the clearest in the world.

Executive chef Michael Tighe began working at the rustic 1915-era lodge only this spring, but he’s already been won over by the signature clam chowder. “I used to use sherry in mine, but I like the brandy in it better,” he says. “When it’s cold up here, the brandy really gives you that fire in the belly.”

Stir up a big pot and taste for yourself. The chowder gets its body from both heavy cream and whole milk. It’s thickened with a cornstarch slurry rather than flour, so it doesn’t end up pasty. Tighe uses fresh, chopped clams in his version but says you can easily use canned, if you like. Just be sure to add them at the end, so they don’t overcook and turn rubbery. Then he accompanies his bountiful bowl with wedges of crusty sourdough and a brandy chaser.

Northwest Clam Chowder
Makes 2 quarts or 6−8 servings
Adapted with permission from Crater Lake Lodge

2 slices good-quality bacon
1 onion, diced fine
3 stalks celery, diced fine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 grinds black pepper
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups clam juice
1 pound peeled, diced potatoes (Yukon gold or red bliss)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 ½ pounds chopped clams (fresh or canned)
2 ounces brandy
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, slowly sauté the bacon until it is just starting to crisp. Add onions and celery; cook until onions are translucent.

2. Add salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme; cook just until the herbs release their fragrance.

3. Add the clam juice, potatoes, Worcestershire, and Tabasco, and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and allow the potatoes to cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the heavy cream and milk. Add the clams. Bring the pot to a simmer again.

5. In a small cup, dissolve the cornstarch in the brandy. Stir the mixture into the soup, then cook for 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper, if necessary. Ladle into bowls and serve with sourdough bread.

Photography by David Collier

This article was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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