Smoked Cheddar and Seafood Chowder with Mini Grilled Cheeses
Instead of bacon, this rich and creamy chowder is finished with decadent cubes of smoked Cheddar. It’s sophisticated enough for a dinner party but also ideal for a comforting night in.
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, divided
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced red bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) black pepper
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) all-purpose flour
- 1 bottle (236 mL) clam juice
- 2 cups (500 mL) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy or whipping (35%) cream
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced Yukon Gold potatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp (10 mL) Old Bay seasoning
- 8 oz (250 g) cod fillet, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
- 8 oz (250 g) bay scallops
- 8 oz (250 g) tails-removed deveined peeled medium shrimp (16–20 count)
- 1 Cracker Barrel Smoked Cheddar Block (340 g), divided
- 24 slices baguette
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) mayonnaise
- 2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped fresh chives
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- In large heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter. Add celery, onion, red pepper, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes or until starting to soften. Sprinkle flour over top. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes or until incorporated.
- Slowly whisk in clam juice and 1/2 cup (125 mL) water. Continue to whisk, and bring to a boil. Stir in milk and cream; bring back to a boil. Stir in potatoes, bay leaves and Old Bay seasoning. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
- Gently stir in cod, scallops and shrimp. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp turn pink, scallops and cod turn opaque, and all seafood is just cooked through. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- Meanwhile, cut half the Cheddar block into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes and set aside. Cut remaining Cheddar block into 12 slices to fit baguette slices.
- Spread remaining butter on baguette slices and arrange, butter side down, on work surface.
- In small bowl, stir together mayonnaise and mustard. Divide mayo mixture evenly among non-buttered sides of baguette slices. Layer Cheddar slice over top of mayonnaise mixture on 6 baguette slices. Cap with remaining baguette slices.
- Heat large skillet over medium-low heat. In batches, cook sandwiches, flipping once, for 4 to 6 minutes or until cheese has melted and bread is toasted.
- Meanwhile, stir Cheddar cubes into chowder. Stir in chives and nutmeg. Remove bay leaves. Cheese cubes should be warmed to centre but not melting.
- Serve chowder with mini grilled cheese sandwiches.
Use your favorite mix of fish and seafood. Substitute with crab, lobster, clams, mussels and/or any firm white-fleshed fish.