The nights are already getting shorter and colder here in Maine which turns the mind to craving comfort foods. We’re all still trying to hang on to the last bits of Summer, but every once in a while something sneaks in and makes you think of Fall. My in-laws were at the marina and were given a 5 pound bag of clams. They passed it over to me saying, “This would make a great chowder!” I’ve never made clam chowder, but I’m always up for something new!
I searched the web and a few cook books and settled on the one below. Next time, I’ll make a few tweaks and I’ll note this along the way too. What I’ve learned is once you have the prep work done, you can have chowder within minutes!
New England Clam Chowder
- 5 pounds quahogs, steamers, or other hard shelled clams or 1 pint of shucked clams plus 1 bottle of clam juice
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/8 pound salt pork or 2 slices of bacon, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup milk ( 2% is fine)
- Reserved liquid from cooking the clams (You’ll use about 2 cups)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- salt to taste
- Dash of cayenne (optional)
- 4 tsp chopped parsley (optional)
Preparing your clams
Scrub each clam with a stiff vegetable brush. Put the clams into a large pot and fill it with cold water. Mix in 1/4 cup salt and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Let the clams stay in this solution for 1 hour to get rid of any sand. Rinse the clams under running water and put into a large colander to drain. Thoroughly rinse out the pot, put the clams back in, and add 1 cup water and 2 bay leaves. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place the pot over medium high heat to steam the clams for about 15 minutes. Most of the clams should be completely open, throw away any that aren’t! Remove the clams and place them into bowl. Using a fine mesh strainer, or a cheesecloth, strain the liquid left in the pot into a small bowl. You’ll have about 3 cups of what is called “clam liquor” Put it aside. You’ll use about 2 cups for this recipe and the rest you can freeze and use next time.
While the clams are cooling, you can prep the rest of the ingredients for the chowder. It’s important to get everything diced, etc. because everything will happen very quickly once you get your bacon/salt pork going. Also, keep your potatoes and onions small, so you don’t have huge chunks in your chowder. Rinse out your large pot and put it back on the stove over medium heat. If you are using salt pork, cook it until the fat has rendered. If you’re using bacon, cook it until it’s almost crisp.
Add the diced onion, the remaining bay leaf, the thyme, pepper and butter. After the butter melts, sprinkle the flour over the ingredients and stir to blend. The flour will thicken the chowder.
After the onions become translucent, add the reserved clam cooking liquid, diced potatoes and milk. Bring to a oil, stirring frequently, and then reduce the heat. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir once or twice as the potatoes simmer.
Once the clams have cooled remove them from their shells. Chop them into small pieces, about 1/4 dice is good. You want them to be small, otherwise you’ll have chewy bits of clams in your chowder.
Once your potatoes have simmered, add the clams and heavy cream. Bring just to a simmer and then cook for 2-3 more minutes. Do not overcook or the clams will become tough and rubbery. You can now add salt, white pepper and cayenne to taste.
Serve in cups or bowls and sprinkle with parsley.
Source: Boston Discovery Guide