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Whether you’re a die hard football fan who can’t wait for the biggest match of the year –or a football widow (or widower) who’s dying from joy because it’s the end of the season–Super Bowl Sunday is cause for celebration.

This year, it’s The New York Giants vs. The New England Patriots…again.

And while I’m not saying who I’m rooting for on game day (um, just because I keep a photo of Tom Brady in the house does not mean I’m a football fan), when it comes to Sunday’s game food–New England Clam Chowder vs. Manhattan Clam Chowder–I’m a New England fan all the way.

Over the years, I’ve made dozens of chowder recipes and one of the most delicious comes from Thomas Keller..his restaurants (The French Laundry, Bouchon and Ad Hoc), and the cookbooks they inspired, are among my favorites.

But after I added up the calories and fat in the chowder recipe from  Ad Hoc at Home, I knew the odds were stacked against me…or anyone hoping to lose or maintain their weight. In a recipe that makes 6 two-cup servings, there’s a total of almost 5800 calories and 440 grams of fat…that’s 961 calories and 77 grams of fat per person!

So, because I’d like to get off the couch without a stretcher at the end of the game, I’ve skinny-fied Keller’s recipe…simplifying the the game plan and side-lining a few of the fattiest players.

Instead of a 1/2 pound of bacon–which has 1000-12oo calories and 90-110 grams of fat, depending on the brand–2 slices of organic bacon (60 calories) and bacon seasoned salt add the bacon-y taste.

By forfeiting the 3 cups of whole milk and 3 cups of heavy cream –more than 2900 calories and almost 300 grams of fat–in favor of almond milk and fat free half and half –just 120 calories–you deal another decisive blow.

By kicking the 900 calories of butter and oil and using just 1 teaspoon of canola oil (40 calories), you still assist the bacon and veg for a fraction of the fat and calories.

And even a traditional vegetable player has been traded for a better one…

Instead of 2 pounds of potatoes (800 calories), the same amount of cauliflower– half diced and half pureed–mimics the sensation of the chunks of spuds and the thickness of cream for just 120 calories!

Adding in a couple of cups of celery and a bit of corn (corn is optional if you’re a chowder purist) provides even more fiber, bulk, texture and flavor.

The score now? Only 180 calories for a big two cup bowl..that’s just 20 percent of the calories in the original recipe and virtually none of the fat!

Is it exactly the same? No, of course not… A mouth full of fat always feels like a mouth full of fat, and this doesn’t.  BUT, by filling yourself up and faking yourself out with this skinny substitute this Super Bowl Sunday, YOU win the game!!


A couple of notes about ingredients…

Though Keller calls for steaming your own clams, unless you’re very close to the water and have access to really fresh seafood, I don’t think it’s really worth all of the extra work.

And though I love the fancy pants salt I buy for 5 bucks a bag from our local salt guru at the farmers market (yes, of course L.A. has a local salt guru), there is a product available for 3 bucks in almost every major supermarket now called J.D’s Bacon Salt. It has few mystery ingredients, but you don’t need much and it works as well.

About seafood broth: If you’re not boiling your own clam shells and fish heads, I’m a big fan of using broth made from paste like Better Than Bouillon brand’s fish base.  It allows you to control the intensity of the flavor and keeps for months in the fridge.  If you can’t find it, or any decent seafood broth, use 1 T of anchovy paste (found near canned fish in most markets)  dissolved in 2 cups of hot water, instead.


2 slices organic bacon--applewood, hickory, peppered or mixed–diced

1 t canola oil

1 head (about 2 lbs) cauliflower, florets trimmed off and stalk pieces diced.

2 onions, diced

2 c celery, diced

4 cups leeks (white and pale green parts only) sliced

5 cloves garlic, minced

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2-3 bay leaves

1/2 c. dry vermouth

1 T Smart Balance Light Butter Spread

1/2 c brown rice flour

2 c seafood broth  (If you can’t find Better Than Bouillon Fish Base, use the anchovy paste cheat I described above…just don’t use chicken broth or the chowder will taste like, well, chicken!)

2 c  Original Unsweetened  (NOT vanilla!) 40 Calorie a Cup Almond Milk

1/4 c fat-free half and half

3  15-oz cans clams, chopped whole or mixed (I prefer 2 chopped and 1 whole)

1 c fresh or frozen corn kernels

3 t Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry (a 1/2 t is added to each bowl as you serve.)

Fresh chives, for garnish

Chop the cauliflower, separating the pieces that can be diced from the tops of florets. Place the florets and crumbly bits into a microwave safe bowl.

Chop onions and set 2 cups aside with the diced cauliflower pieces.  Take whatever remains and add it to the microwave bound bowl with the cauliflower florets. Season all with any bacon flavored salt you like. Cover with a plate and microwave on high for 8-10 minutes.

While the cauliflower is cooking, chop the bacon, celery, garlic and leeks…making sure you cut leeks lengthwise and rinse well to get rid of hidden dirt before you slice.

Heat a non-stick soup pot over medium heat for a couple of minutes, then drizzle in 1 t canola oil, drop in the bacon pieces and reduce heat to medium low. (There is so little fat, that cooking at a higher temperature will cause it to stick and burn.) Stir almost constantly for the few minutes it takes to crisp up the meaty bits. Lift those out with a slotted spoon and set aside to garnish bowls at serving.  (If any bits of the bacon in the pan are solid fat, just leave them there to continue melting and flavoring the veg, you don’t want to top a bowl with them.)

Add the onions, celery and diced cauliflower to the pan and stir, still on medium-low heat, for a few minutes to coat with the bacon infused oil.  Add garlic, thyme and bay leaves and stir 2 minutes more.  Add the leeks and  1 T Smart Balance Light and stir until melted. Add in the vermouth, stir again, turn heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, checking and stirring now and then to make sure nothing is sticking.

While vegetables are cooking, use your immersion blender to puree the cooked cauliflower and onions until very smooth.

When vegetables in the pot are soft, fish out the bay leaves and stems of the thyme, plucking off any remaining thyme leaves and dropping them into the pot.  Turn the heat up to medium low again and add the brown rice flour and stir for a few minutes to cook the flour…the mixture will become sticky and thick.

Start stirring in the fish broth, a bit at a time, as if making a roux for a gravy….each time you add in the broth, keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to get all the tasty bits into the mix.  Drain all the clam juice from the canned clams into the pot as well.  Do not add the clams yet…you don’t want them to get tough!

Add in the pureed cauliflower and stir well to incorporate…then pour in the Almond Milk and fat-free cream.

(If adding in fresh or frozen corn, now is the time to do that as well.)

Add in the clams, stir and taste for seasonings.  Since all broths, canned clams and salts are slightly different, you’ll want to adjust seasonings.  I always add more bacon flavored salt and occasionally add more broth if the soup is too thick. If the fish flavor isn’t strong enough, you can adjust by adding a bit more Better Than Bouillon Broth paste or Anchovy Paste.

To serve: add 1/2 t of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry to each bowl and stir, add freshly ground pepper and sprinkle with the bacon bits and some fresh chives.  Or, if you want more crunch, add a few croutons made of low glycemic Ezekiel Bread.

And, if you happen to have an artisan loaf of sourdough bread around, have a bit.. a slim slice is about 130 calories. I know, white bread is the bad ex-boyfriend…BUT, since this soup is SO skinny, this might be a case of  “a one night stand is SO worth it!”


Many chowder recipes include finely diced carrots, add a cup in when you cook the onions if you like.  And just because this recipe begins as a clam chowder, you can easily turn it into a seafood chowder by adding in other fish–like haddock, scallops or shrimp.  Just double the amount of broth in the recipe and, after you’ve added the broth to the vegetables, drop in the raw fish and let it poach before you add in the cauliflower puree, almond milk and fat free cream.

Happy Game Day!

About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
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