Saturday, October 27, 2012

New England Clam Chowder

Without a doubt, New England Clam Chowder is one of my all-time favorite soups. From 1983 to 2005, it was my regular Friday meal at The Loon Cafe. I'd order up a huge honkin' bowl after my regular noon WallyBall game at the Arena Club.

Purists will tell you that you need fresh clams to make New England Clam Chowder. I beg to differ. I like to make this for weeknight meals, so I don't want to devote a ton of time to steaming and shucking clams. I buy canned clams, either minced or chopped. The broth is so rich and tasty that I have never longed for the taste of fresh clams in my soup. Same goes for my clam juice. I buy it at the store in bottles. This means I can make the soup in about 20 minutes instead of slaving over it for hours. It's a weeknight, for Pete's sake.

Most recipes call for using four strips of bacon. I'm an unabashed bacon fiend, so I use a whole stinkin' pound in my chowder. It gives the soup a deep, smoky taste and a huge flavor boost to the pale taste of the clams. I also use red potatoes as they tend to hold up better to the heat than russets or Yukons. I serve this soup with a fresh baguette of French bread and a small salad. What a great meal! This recipe serves six.

20 ounces minced or chopped clams
6 cups clam juice
1 pound thick-sliced bacon, diced in 1/2-inch pieces
1 large white or yellow onion, diced medium
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, diced medium
1 large bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup heavy cream
Chopped fresh chives (for garnish)


  1. Fry bacon in kettle over medium-low heat until fat renders and bacon crisps, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove bacon and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. 
  2. Add onion to the two tablespoons of bacon fat; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour; stir until lightly colored, about 1 minute. 
  3.  Gradually whisk in bottled clam juice. Add potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add bacon, clams and their juice and heavy whipping cream. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat and serve. Garnish each serving bowl with chopped chives. 

Wine pairing: A nice oaky Chardonnay

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