New England Clam Chowder

March 24, 2008

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 I adore clam chowder out of all proportion to where I live (sadly, nowhere near New England).   So it came to mind the other day when I was thinking of the foods I would like to have while the last gasps of winter are still blowing across my backyard.  Warm, hearty foods that will be out of rotation once spring and summer arrive with all their bounty and my unair-conditioned kitchen stops beckoning.  

I’ve always considered clam chowder something to order out, not something to make at home.   But the last few restaurant versions I’ve tried have made me long for something better, fresher tasting, less paste-like.  Upon consideration, I decided it was completely doable.  Plus it was an opportunity to play with fresh clams, still in their shells, and use some more of my home-cured bacon.  For my first attempt at clam chowder, the results were stunning (and faster then going out).  Deeply-flavored and creamy, this chowder is studded with red potatoes and chewy bits of clam throughout.

New England Clam Chowder      adapted from The Best New Recipe, serves 2-3

  • 25 littleneck clams, washed and scrubbed clean

bring 2 cups water to a boil in a large stockpot.  add clams and cover.  cook 5 minutes and stir to check that clams have just opened.  if not, recover and steam until they open.  fish the clams out of the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve the steaming liquid.  remove the clam meat from the shells over the reserved liquid to catch any tasty clam drippings.  mince the clam meat roughly and set aside.  pour the reserved clam liquid into a measuring cup, leaving the last couple tablespoons of liquid and any sediment in the bowl.  add water to make 2 1/2 cups.

  •  2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped medium
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

fry the bacon over medium low heat until crisp.  add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and softened ~ 5 minutes.  add the flour and stir until lightly colored ~ 1 minute.  add the reserved clam broth, whisking constantly.  

  • 3/4 pound red potatoes, or another waxy variety
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram

add and simmer until potatoes are tender ~ 10 minutes. 

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

add and bring back up to a simmer; remove immediately from the heat.  discard the bay leaf.  serve immediately.

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