Vegan New England Clam Chowder
A little while ago, Graham expressed great excitement about the prospect of vegan clam chowder, so I gave it a shot. This might be the best soup I’ve ever made.
Both Graham and I loved this—it was extremely flavorful, creamy, and filling, and my home-made “clams” were a big hit. Since G hails from Massachusetts, I was particularly happy that this chowder met with his approval. Of course, I’m the last person who should be trying to make clam chowder–I didn’t grow up eating it, and I don’t really have strong opinions about how it’s “supposed” to be. Also, when I think of “New England,” I always think of something like the town in the live-action Popeye movie. With that said, I think this turned out tasting delicious and very clam chowder-y.
I’ve noticed that lots of people make vegan clam chowder by using mushrooms as clams—this sounds delicious, but I wanted to try to make something really clammy. It then occurred to me: seitan-gone-wrong has a very clammy texture. Certain kinds of bad seitan are gummy and chewy, just like clams. So, I took a seitan recipe that never worked for me, incorporated some ground nori into the wheat gluten, and went from there.
Of course, I first had to do some research on exactly what goes into homemade clam chowder (since I had never made it before). I was totally aghast—clam chowder is filled with butter and cream. Never would I consider dumping, say, ¾ C of butter into a soup. I mean, that’s a lot of really expensive oil! So, I refined the recipe a bit so that it wouldn’t be so… artery-clogging and wallet-draining. I say all of this as someone who loves to cook with (vegetable) fat.
And, for your benefit and mine, I actually kept track of what I was doing, which means I now have a recipe for you. It’s a little time-consuming—after all, you’re making your own clams and clam juice. But I thought that the results were wonderful, and definitely worth the effort. Just a quick note: all of the celery I was able to find was too expensive, so I left it out. But if you make this yourself and can find some reasonably priced celery, throw some in with the onions and potatoes! So here you go, a time-consuming but fun chowder recipe. This is going to require sub-lists.
Vegan New England Clam Chowder (makes 4 generous servings)
-4 Tbsp and 2 ½ Tbsp and and 2 tsp ground nori (you use nori at different points in the recipe)
-1 tsp and 1 ¼ tsp and 1 tsp salt
-½ C vital wheat gluten
-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
-2 potatoes, cubed
-1 large carrot, chopped
-1 onion, chopped
-a couple splashes of liquid smoke
-4 Tbsp oil or vegan margarine
-4 Tbsp flour
-2 C vegetable broth
-1 C milk (I used oat milk)
-½ C ground raw cashews
-¼ tsp black pepper
-1 tsp herbs
1. Make clam juice.
a. Combine 2 C water, 4 Tbsp of nori, and 1 tsp salt in a small pot.
b. Boil mixture for 15-20 minutes, and then strain, reserving the water (which is now “clam” juice).
2. Make the clams.
a. Whisk together the ½ C wheat gluten with 2 ½ Tbsp of nori flakes.
b. Combine gluten mixture with ½ C of water, and need for about 1 minute.
c. Slice the dough to make little clam strips, like this:
d. In a pot, combine 2 C of water, 1 ¼ tsp of salt, and 2 Tbsp of nutritional yeast. Bring to a boil.
e. Throw the clam strips into the pot, and turn the heat down to medium. Cover and cook the clam strips, stirring regularly, until the liquid is gone. How long this takes can vary wildly.
f. Once the liquid is gone, fry the clam strips in a bit of oil in a pan until they’re brown. Then they should look like this:
(Just for the record, I had to fight to keep G from eating all of these. He now wants me to make them again, and then deep-fry them. We’ll see.)
3. Cook the vegetables.
a. In a pan with high sides, cook the onions with some oil until they are clear. Add in a bit of liquid smoke.
b. Add in the potatoes and carrots, and throw in the pre-made clam juice.
c. Cover, and let simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
4. Make the base.
a. Heat/melt the 4 Tbsp of oil or margarine in a large pot, and then whisk in the 4 Tbsp of flour to make a roux.
b. Quickly add in the 2 C of vegetable broth, the 1 C of milk, and the ½ C of ground cashews. Whisk to fully incorporate, and heat until it thickens. Stir regularly to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
a. Once the potatoes and carrots are tender, add them to the base, along with any clam juice left in the pan.
b. Add another 1 tsp of salt, ¼ tsp black pepper, 1 tsp of mixed herbs, 2 tsp of ground nori, and the clams, and cook the soup on low heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly.
c. When you’re ready to eat, throw in one last splash of liquid smoke, and serve!
This will also taste great the next day, although it will be thicker.