I crave creamy soup when it rains. And to me, the definition of a comforting, creamy soup is none other than New England clam chowder. Spending half my life growing up outside of Boston, ther’s plenty of good memories when someone’s uncle makes a giant pot of chowder and the whole neighborhood gets together to warm their bellies on cold days with oyster crackers. It’s comfort food you want to curl up inside and take a mid-afternoon nap.
So with that found memory in mind and a cold, raining to look forward to I decided to make the genuine article. The Cook’s Illistrated Best New Recipes encyclopedia turned out to be one of the best reference points to work with after browsing over a few other recipes. There isn’t a ton of variation with this dish except with your spices. It’s up to you what you want to add, but as usual I highly recommend some cayenne pepper to give your chowder a nice heat.
If you can’t get your hands on fresh clams, using store bought clam juice for the broth is still a much better option than buying premade chowder.
For a batch large enough for two (double the recipe if cooking for more)
5-6 live clams
2-3 cups of water
3 red potatoes
1/2 yellow onion
2 slices of bacon (thick cut if you can get it)
1 Tbsp flour
1 Bay leaf
Pintch of dried thyme (or two sprigs fresh thyme)
good pintch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a large pan pour about 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Scrub and rinse your clams then add, putting a lid on top to steam the clams open. Crank your heat up giving the pan a quick swirl every couple of minutes.
Once the clams are slightly open you want to remove them before the little nuggest of meat get tough and chewy. Sever the muscle and remove the meat. Mince well (rinse them one if you don’t like the green goopy crap) and set aside to be added to the chowder later.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour broth into a measuring cup. See that grit at the bottom of the pan? You don’t want that. Just pour off most of the broth and leave behind some of the liquid and grit in the pan. You want a total of 2 1/2 cups of broth, so after you’ve poured off the the broth from the pan, just add water till you’re at 2 1/2 cups.
In a decent sized pot on medium-low heat add your diced bacon and cook till crispy. Then your diced onions. Cook until tender on a nice humming simmer.
One big spoonful of flour is going to go in the pot next to thicken your sauce. If it’s really dry add just a little bit of your broth and stir to get all the flour soaked up. Be sure to continue to cook until you’ve cooked out that raw flour taste.
Now you want to gradually add the rest of your broth stirring regularly until well mixed.
Add your diced potatoes and spices, bring to a simmer, and cover for about 12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Reduce heat to a low simmer and add your cream, white pepper, minced clams. Let simmer until you’re happy with the seasoning and remove from heat.
NOTE: Be sure not to let the chowder boil or the cream with curdle.
You can serve immediately. I like my chowder really thick and creamy so letting it sit out for 15 minutes or so will let all those flavors come together and thicken.
Serve with crackers/bread/as is. Fuck’in aye.