Celebrate San Francisco with clam chowder dip in a bread bowl on game day

Love clam chowder in a bread bowl? Here's the snack for you.

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clam chowder dip in bread bowl
You know you want some
Photo: Dennis Lee

The San Francisco 49ers unexpectedly made it to the NFL Conference Championships after defeating the Green Bay Packers this year. Chicago was not-so-quietly delighted, which is putting it nicely. (The Packers are Chicago’s nemesis, after all, and in this case, the enemy of our enemy is our friend.)

And when you think of San Francisco, which foods do you think of? One of my fondest memories of visiting San Francisco is going to Fisherman’s Wharf, where I sat down and enjoyed a delightfully touristy meal of clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. I totally realize that people in San Francisco probably don’t sit around eating clam chowder all day, just like Chicagoans don’t house deep dish pizza all the time, but hey, I remember I loved it.

Most of the Super Bowl parties I’ve attended involved a dip in a bread bowl of some kind, typically store-bought spinach dip, nestled in a sourdough bread bowl. Coupling that idea with clam chowder, I thought, hell, let’s turn the soup into a creamy dip.

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The standout flavors of clam chowder are the clams (obviously), potatoes, a bit of celery, onions, and bacon. I captured most of them in a cream cheese base, boosted its savory qualities with just a tiny bit of MSG, and rather than add potatoes to the dip itself, I crumbled some chips on top for that concentrated russet flavor. Boom. Go shout at some football.


Clam Chowder Dip

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. celery, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp. onion, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely minced, with some reserved for garnish
  • 1/8 tsp. MSG (optional)
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 dashes hot sauce
  • 1 6.5 oz. can chopped clams, drained, with clam juice reserved in a measuring cup
  • 2 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
  • Potato chips, crushed
  • 1 loaf sourdough (uncut) for serving

Place cream cheese, sour cream, celery, onion, parsley, MSG, black pepper, and hot sauce in large mixing bowl. Using an electric beater, combine mixture until all ingredients are mostly incorporated—it will be thick.

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Using measuring cup, pour reserved clam juice into mixture one ounce at a time, beating continuously until dip is at desired texture, around 2-3 ounces. At this point, all ingredients should be completely incorporated. Add chopped clams and bacon to bowl and fold in gently.

Chill dip for at least 1-2 hours prior to serving.

When ready to serve, use a knife to carve a hole into the top of the sourdough loaf, and tear out bread. Reserve torn out bread for dipping. Transfer dip to bread bowl, and garnish with crushed potato chips and minced parsley. Serve with sourdough bread cubes and and additional potato chips on the side.