New England Clam Chowder

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Soups | New England Clam Chowder

(American clam and potato stew)

Dating from the 18th century, New England clam chowder is a thick milk or cream-based stew originally made with fresh clams dug out of the sand on the shore. The name "chowder" is thought to have originated with the French word chaudière, a kind of large pot it was originally made in. Unlike Manhattan clam chowder, the New England sort has no tomatoes.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • Salt pork or bacon, diced -- 1/4 cup
  • Onion, finely chopped -- 1
  • Butter -- 2 tablespoons
  • Flour -- 1/4 cup
  • Chicken stock or bottled clam juice -- 2 cups
  • Milk -- 2 cups
  • Russet potatoes, peeled and diced -- 2
  • Dried thyme -- 2 teaspoons
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Chopped clams with their juice -- 2 (10-ounce) cans
  • Heavy cream or half-and-half (optional) -- 1/2 cup

Method

  1. Place a large pot over medium flame, add the salt pork or bacon and saute until it renders most of its fat and starts to get crispy. Add the onion and saute for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the butter and flour and let cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Whisk in the stock or clam juice and milk, making sure to beat out any lumps from the flour. Add the potatoes, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender and cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the clams and their juice and simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes to heat through. Stir in the optional cream, adjust seasoning and serve hot in bowl with oyster crackers.

Variations

  • Using Fresh Clams: Scrub 2 pounds of small cherrystone clams well under running water. Steam them in a covered pot with just enough water to cover them halfway. They are done when the shells pop open. Discard any that don't open and reserve the liquid. Remove the clams from their shells and chop them up. Add the clams and the reserved liquid when called for in the recipe.
  • Cape Ann-style Chowder: A thinner version of clam chowder. Simply eliminate the flour.
  • Noank-style Clear Clam Chowder: Eaten along a small strip of coast from eastern Connecticut to western Rhode Island. Eliminate the flour, milk and cream, and use all (4 cups) clam juice or a mixture of clam juice and chicken stock or water.
  • You can saute some chopped celery with the onion if you like.
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