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.

  • 24
  • 75
  • 6


    • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Spread remaining butter on baguette slices and arrange, butter side down, on work surface.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Meanwhile, stir Cheddar cubes into chowder. Stir in chives and nutmeg. Remove bay leaves. Cheese cubes should be warmed to centre but not melting.
  9. Serve chowder with mini grilled cheese sandwiches.

Helpful Hint:

Use your favorite mix of fish and seafood. Substitute with crab, lobster, clams, mussels and/or any firm white-fleshed fish.