Chowder: The Official Food of a Rainy Seattle Day
Sunshine is no guarantee in Seattle. It could disappear at any moment behind gray, heavy rain clouds. Even if it’s not really raining, mist and fog are common companions in Seattle, especially during the fall and winter months. Short, cloudy days sometimes make it feel like it never really gets light outside. And while it doesn’t get as cold here as it does in other parts of the country, that cold mist will chill you right to your bones. It’s a cold you simply can’t bundle up against.
So how do we stay warm out here in the Pacific Northwest?
We eat chowder.
Duke’s Chowder: A Family Recipe
There is almost nothing better than coming home on a cold, drizzly day and warming up with a bowl of clam chowder. Everybody has their favorite recipe, their own tips and tricks that they learned from their parents or grandparents, or invented themselves.
At Duke’s, our Award-Winning Clam Chowder comes from its native home of New England, specifically from my grandfather’s kitchen.
John Fitzgerald Cox was quite the character. I remember him as a tough guy, full of vigor and pep. He was a card shark, forever relieving his friends of their money and he could drink anybody under the table without batting an eye. His arm was at a permanent angle from a badly healed break, giving him an off-kilter look, even so, he loved to dance.
And he loved to cook.
He would constantly brag about his clam chowder, claiming it was the best in all of New England.
“Empty bowls at every serving,” he would boast (obviously, if the bowls aren’t empty, it’s hard to maintain your reputation as the best).
To ensure that every bowl was emptied properly, Grampa Cox would make delicious chocolate éclairs along with his clam chowder. He’d put them on a big plate in the middle of the table, along with the assurance that my brother and I could have one … after we’d eaten all of our chowder.
Now, as a boy, I wasn’t the biggest fan of clam chowder. I remember my grandfather’s recipe being quite brothy and with a strong clammy flavor. But his unwavering confidence in his own abilities really stuck with me as I grew up, it eventually inspired me to try and make my own version of the best clam chowder.
Duke’s Award-Winning Chowder
When I first opened Duke’s, I knew that I had to be able to offer my customers something unique, something that would stand out. And I knew that in Seattle, seafood chowder is always a hit, especially on those frequent rainy days.
So I began working with one of my chefs, Jack Jones, to create a signature clam chowder for Duke’s restaurants, inspired by my Grampa Cox’s recipe. I knew exactly what we were after – a distinct, fresh herb flavor and creamy texture with a fragrant but not overpowering clam taste.
Each successive pot we made was better and better. Finally, I knew we had it.
We introduced our new recipe to the world at a massive chowder cook-off that year, and while we knew our recipe was good, we weren’t sure if it was the best.
We won by a landslide that first year.
For three consecutive years, Duke’s Clam Chowder beat out the competition. It was declared the best in Seattle, and I knew my Grampa Cox would have been so proud. Eventually, I was asked to be a judge at the cook-off, prompting the retirement of Duke’s Award-Winning Clam Chowder recipe from competition. It would claim its rightful place as the benchmark against which all chowder would be measured.
Comfort on a Rainy Day
Clam chowder is one of my favorite comfort foods. At Duke’s we not only associate comfort foods with positive experiences, but also with our deeper social fabric.
Food brings people together in a magical way, creating and sustaining close relationships for a lifetime. Comfort food can evoke that sense of belonging in all of us.
And, the weather. It has been scientifically proven that certain weather has an adverse effect on one’s moods, bringing on feelings of loneliness and depression (source). Short, dark and damp days characterize about half the year in Seattle, and sometimes it feels like we are all fighting to keep a smile on our faces.
Maybe that’s why chowder is so popular on a rainy day here in Seattle.
Duke’s is the destination for delicious, homemade chowder in Seattle. Even if you’re eating a bowl of chowder alone, it can give you that feeling of togetherness with others. So, the next time it rains, come on down to one of six Duke’s locations around Seattle and try a bowl of our Award-Winning Clam Chowder. If clams aren’t your thing, don’t worry; we have four other different types of chowder on the menu!
If you aren’t up for venturing out in the rain, that’s fine. Put away those rubber boots and pull out your soup pot! You can whip up some of Duke’s chowder right in your own kitchen. Below you’ll find a recipe inspired by rainy Pacific Northwest days.
Whether you share with family and friends or savor a bowl by yourself, remember that when you enjoy Duke’s chowder, you’re always in good company.
So here it is; the recipe that made Duke’s Chowder House infamous. Whip some up at home or, better yet, come in and let us do the cooking for you.
Dukes Award-Winning Clam Chowder[Makes ¾ gallon]
2 cups baby red potatoes, diced medium
4 slices nitrite-free bacon
½ cup Darigold butter
2 cups onions, diced medium
2 cups celery, diced medium
1 Tbsp fresh garlic, diced small
½ cup flour or Duke’s Gluten Free Flour Blend
2 Tbsp Clam base
1½ cups Clam juice
1½ cups milk
2½ cups heavy whipping cream
½ tsp fresh organic basil leaves, diced small
1 tsp fresh organic thyme, stems removed, diced small
½ tsp fresh marjoram, diced small
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh organic parsley, stems removed, diced small
1 Tbsp fresh organic dill, stems removed, diced small
1 lb IQF (individually quick frozen) Surf Clams (all natural)
- Blanch potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix Clam base with Clam juice until dissolved.
- Chop bacon (diced medium), and cook in heavy-bottomed saucepan until crispy. Add butter, onions, celery and garlic, and sauté until tender.
- Then, add flour and stir well to incorporate. This is the roux. Continue stirring and bring mixture to 175 degrees. Then cook for exactly 7 minutes. Do not brown the roux.
- Add Clam base/Clam juice mixture to the roux. (Adding it after the roux has cooked prevents roux balls from forming.)
- Add the milk and cream, then the herbs. Heat until 185 degrees, blending constantly with a wire whisk.
- Add blanched red potatoes and Clams. Simmer at 185 degrees for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn heat down and hold at 165-175 degrees.