An intense PEI inspired Clam Chowder Recipe from Island Chef, Hunter Guindon
Rita Sasges·February 23, 2022
It’s National Clam Chowder Day and we wanted to bring you a chowder recipe from a PEI expert. There are hundreds of ways to make chowder but we were looking for a quintessential local recipe that knocked the seafood flavour out of the park. Enter Chef Hunter Guindon, executive chef of the hyper local The Table Culinary Studio in Kensington, PEI. Named by the Globe & Mail in 2021 as one of Canada’s next star chefs. Hunter’s focus on locally grown and sourced ingredients means he’s truly one to watch. Take it away Chef Guindon.
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Chowder is one of those things that everybody enjoys year-round. It doesn’t matter the season, there’s nothing better than sitting around a table of close friends and family with a bowl of chowder and a beautiful bottle of wine.
When I first developed this recipe three years ago, the goal was to create a chowder with intense shellfish flavour, without overwhelming the delicate flavour of the vegetables. My take on a traditional clam chowder has lots of clam flavour from the addition of the clam juice, and pureed clams, along with the whole bar clams. It really showcases the world class shellfish of PEI with lots of our famous blue mussels from the pristine waters of the Atlantic. This chowder is one of our “greatest hits” at The Table. Guests from all over the world remark on its intense, harmonious flavours!
A quick trip to your favourite Island fishmonger is always the best start to a good pot of chowder! Fresh Island shellfish simmered in lots of Island cream with local bacon and potatoes is quintessential PEI. Of course, this chowder is best served with a bottle of exciting Canadian or American wine. Serving such a locally inspired dish in Island Stoneware’s Low Bowl just feels right.
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PEI Clam Chowder
1/2 lb bacon (I like to use a locally sourced bacon)
2 Tbsp water
1 large white onion
3 celery ribs
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 litres of heavy cream (I like to use 35% whipping cream)
1 large PEI potato
1lb PEI Blue Mussels, steamed and picked
To steam mussels: 1 cup white wine (I suggest using the wine you’ve selected to have with your chowder) and 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Jars (153-gram jar) Annands Bottled Bar Clams*
Salt and pepper to taste
A few small handfuls of your favourite fresh herbs (I like to use green onions, chives, and curly parsley)
Bar Clams are also known as Surf Clams. They’re typically found on sand bars (thus the name) and are gaining notoriety on the culinary scene for their sweet meat. I prefer using Annands brand because they’re caught and processed in a day. They can be bought at many Maritime markets or bought online and shipped to you from The Preserve Company on PEI. If they’re not available at your local grocer or fishmonger look for Atlantic clams in a jar or a tin. The important attribute is they’re packed with juice so you can use it in the chowder.
On PEI we assume that everyone has cooked fresh mussels. If you’re new to seafood cleaning and cooking, fresh mussels can be intimidating. Don’t let it keep you from trying this wonderful chowder.
Steam the mussels. Preheat a deep heavy soup pot to medium high heat. Add a splash of oil, and the garlic, then sauté the garlic for a few seconds. Once you can smell the garlic, add the cleaned mussels and the wine to the pot. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow the mussel to steam for 5-7minutes, until the mussels pop open. Strain off the liquid (you can freeze the flavourful mussel broth for use in another recipe) and remove the mussels from the pot. Set them aside to cool and do a quick clean of the heavy pot so you’re ready for the next step.
Cut the onion, carrot, and celery into a small dice and set aside. Cut the potato into a medium sized dice, and place in cold water to avoid discolouration. Finely chop the bacon.
Remove the cooled mussels from their shells, reserving the meat and discarding the shells.
Place one can of clams and liquid into a blender or food processor. Add the liquid from the second jar of clams into the same blender, making sure to reserve one jar of clam meat. This method will provide intense clam flavour while allowing for chowder with an interesting texture. Puree the contents of the blender until smooth.
Add the chopped bacon and the water to the pot, then place on the stove and cook over medium heat to render the fat from the bacon until the meat is crispy and the bacon fat has been rendered to a liquid. Add the onion, carrot, and celery into the pot. Cook the vegetables with the bacon and fat for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally so the vegetables don’t burn. Add the butter to the pot and stir until fully melted. Once the butter is melted, add the flour, and continue to cook the mixture over medium heat. Stir frequently until the flour turns a light blonde colour.
Add the pureed clams and the heavy cream into the soup pot, then stir until well combined.
Add the potatoes to the pot. Cook the chowder over medium heat, stirring frequently and watching your heat level so the chowder doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot. Once the potatoes are tender, add the steamed mussels and reserved clam meat to the chowder. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook the chowder until the mussels and clams are just warmed through. Be careful to not overcook the seafood or the meat will be tough.
Ladle big scoops of the chowder into a bowl, making sure to get lots of seafood pieces. At The Table, we garnish our chowder with some toasted torn bread pieces, and lots of fresh herbs. My favourites to add are thinly sliced green onions, lots of chives, and finely chopped curly parsley. You can’t go wrong with a big piece of buttered local bread either!
Wines that Pair with this Chowder
Nothing pairs better with a big creamy bowl of clam chowder than a big glass of wine. My rich, creamy chowder would pair beautifully with a big, full bodied, white wine with some oak on it. Here are my cross-Canada and American suggestions.
Buried White, from Luckett Vineyards in Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley is one of my favourites. This rich, full-bodied wine is made of 100% L’Adacie Blanc, Nova Scotia’s signature white wine grape, aged in oak and bottled unfiltered.
If you’re looking for a VQA Ontario wine, I’d recommend the Norman Hardie County Chardonnay, from Norman Hardie Winery in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. Prince Edward County’s terroir is said to be similar to Burgundy, France, where the chardonnay grape is king. Norman Hardie’s County Chardonnay is a rich, buttery, oaked chardonnay from the limestone rich soils of this vineyard with a beautiful creamy body, and well-balanced acidity.
British Columbia’s wines are becoming more widely available across Canada. From BC, I’d highly recommend you try the Quails Gate Chardonnay, from BC’s Okanagan Valley. BC’s Okanagan Valley is one of Canada’s warmest wine growing regions. The valley’s warmer climate produces wines with beautiful fruit characteristics. This wine is beautifully rich and full-bodied, with lots of lemon and fruit notes that complement the chowder wonderfully!
If American wine is your choice, Bonterra’s Organic Chardonnay from Mendocino, California is a great pairing. The winery ferments some of the wine in oak, and some of the wine in stainless steel, which gives it finessed oak notes, but preserves the bright, crisp citrus flavours in the wine.
Above all, this chowder is best enjoyed with friends and family!
About Chef Hunter Guindon
In 2021 Chef Guindon was recognized by the Globe & Mail as one of Canada’s next star chefs. Originally from Ontario, Hunter has chosen to make PEI his home where he’s executive chef at The Table Culinary Studio in Kensington, PEI. In his current role he focuses on using 100% Canadian ingredients in nightly tasting menus that change every week.
From a young age food was more than just sustenance for Chef Guindon. His love for food quickly turned into an obsession; where it came from; how it was grown; who grew it; and how it ended up in his kitchen. Food sovereignty, seasonality, sustainability, and locality is incredibly important to Chef Guindon.
Originally from Peterborough, Ontario, he was drawn to PEI by its hyper-local culinary scene. Upon graduating from the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown he was the opening Sous Chef of Fireworks at The Inn at Bay Fortune where he spent two years taming the live fires and working with some of PEI’s best ingredients. After working in Whistler, BC and across Ontario, he was drawn back to PEI to spend a summer working at The Pearl, in North Rustico. Chef Guindon’s pursuit of real, local, sustainable cooking then brought him to work as the Sous Chef of the former Terre Rouge Craft Kitchen, and to the formation of Local Supper Club, a tasting menu only pop-up using 100% PEI grown ingredients before joining The Table’s team.
Credits: Food photography courtesy of Hunter Guindon and portrait photo courtesy of Rachel Peters Photography.