Mmmmmmm! Is there anything more satisfying than a piping hot bowl of Creamy New England Clam Chowder?
Not grossly thick, not watery, just smooth, rich and velvety. Just the way a traditional, authentic, clam chowder should be.
I don’t know which is worse….runny, flavorless, watery chowder. Or chowder that’s pasty, and so thick that it’s almost like eating mashed potatoes.
And chowders that have overcooked, chewy, rubbery clams – – don’t even get me started.
Yuck, yuck and yuck!!
Chowder isn’t difficult to make. It’s actually very easy. So don’t worry! Here’s how to make a pot that’s just right. 😉
Personally, I like to start with salt pork over bacon. It’s just like bacon actually, only it isn’t smoked. So your entire pot doesn’t end up tasting like bacon, and the delicate flavors of the clams and the rest of the ingredients, can still shine through.
I add a little water to the pot of the diced salt pork to cook it down and get it going, then I let it finish and brown at the end when the water has dissipated. The bottom of your pot will get quite a lot of brown on it, but don’t worry, it will all scrape off easily when you go to the next step. And all that “brown stuff” equals GREAT flavor!!
Then just add your butter and sauté your celery, onions and garlic, scraping the bottom of the pot to get all those bits of yummy flavor, add your potatoes, milk, broth and seasonings…
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and slow simmer to absolute perfection….
…..until the potatoes melt in your mouth like butter.
And just traces remain of the celery and onions….their flavors melding into the rich and creamy broth…..oh yea.
Just a few more ingredients at the very end and…..
…..oh! MAN!….pure heaven!!! Even just the essence of this rich and creamy pot of clam chowder will whisk you away, straight to the eastern seashore!
I very much enjoy mine topped with fresh minced parsley, a little finely chopped extra -crisp-cooked bacon, and of course, some salty oyster crackers! Finish with a dash or two of hot sauce and a little extra pepper, and you’ve got a pot of pure gold!
Spring is the perfect time for a nice bowl of this beloved childhood favorite, while clams are just coming into season! Go for the hard-shell “littlenecks”, though! They seem to work best for chowders, as they are the most tender, mild and slightly sweet!
Hope you enjoy a pot of my homemade
Creamy New England Clam Chowder soon!
*I designed this recipe so that everyone can make it easily, as most do not have access to fresh-dug clams. But directions are included for cooking fresh hard-shell clams, too.
- ½ lb. salt pork, diced into ¼" pieces*
- ¼ cup water
- 2 Tbl. butter
- 2 large ribs celery, thinly sliced (1/8")
- 1 large onion, small diced (1/4")
- 1 small to medium-sized clove garlic, minced
- 1½ cups chicken broth
- 3 cups milk
- 2½ lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and diced into ½" cubes
- 1 large bay leaf
- ½ tsp. dried thyme
- 3 Tbl. cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbl. COLD water
- 2 (10 oz.) cans baby clams, (drain ONE can of the juice, add juice from second can) *see note for using fresh hard-shell clams
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ½ tsp. white pepper
- 1 tsp. regular table salt, or to taste
- chopped fresh parsley to garnish bowls
- serve with oyster crackers if desired
- In large stock pot, add salt pork and water and sauté over medium-high until fat has rendered, water has evaporated, and pork is getting crispy. (Lower heat to medium, then medium-low as water evaporates). Add butter, scrape bottom of pan well, then add celery and onion. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables are soft. (About 5 minutes or so).
- Add chicken broth, milk, potatoes, bay leaf and thyme. (*It will seem like too many potatoes, but there is more liquid to come later).
- Cover pot with tight-fitting lid, and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Turn down to LOW, and simmer until potatoes are fork tender. Stir occasionally to reduce foam and scrape bottom and sides of pot. Keep an eye on it. (I stir about every 5 - 7 minutes).
- Mix up your cornstarch slurry, stir into simmering pot. Gently stir and simmer for 1 minute. (You may need to turn the heat up just a little). This will be VERY thick.
- Add one can of clams with the juice, and the second can drained. (You can add juice from both cans if you prefer a fishier taste). *Keep in mind that this will thin it, though, so sub part of the chicken broth if you'd like.
- Stir in heavy cream and white pepper. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 30 minutes. (It will be heated through, and flavors will have had time to marry).
- Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley and oyster crackers if desired.
- Hot sauce can also be served at the table for those who would like some.
Discard any clams that remain open when tapped with fingers. Scrub clams with stiff brush under cold running water. Soak clams in mixture of ⅓ cup salt to 1 gallon water for 20 minutes. Drain water; repeat 2 more times. Place 1 cup water in large stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add clams. Cover stockpot; reduce heat to medium. Steam 5 to 7 minutes or until clams open. Remove from stockpot with tongs. Discard any clams that remain unopened. Cut steamed clams out of shells with utility knife. Place into a small bowl, cover, and chill until needed. Add to pot at the end, the same as for canned, along with a small bottle (8 oz.) of clam juice if desired.