I love a good bowl of New England Clam Chowder. I recently had the privilege of eating some very tasty clam chowder along the east coast in Boston, Salem and Cape Cod. Yum. Fresh clams, potatoes and some veggies in a briney, creamy “broth”. Not sure if you can call it a broth but it’s delicious by any name. I learned that it doesn’t need to be ridiculously thick to be delicious. Often the versions full of cream are lacking in flavor because the essence of the clams themselves were being covered up.
No, I do not long for that gloppy, too-thick and sodium-full canned version of clam chowder that I’ve had so many times. I turn to it out of desperation when a craving for this chowder hits but no more. I now have a tried and true recipe that I turn to at home when I’m craving this treat and it comes from America’s Test Kitchen. I won’t say that this is as good as clam chowder made with clams plucked fresh from the sea along the coast, but it’s the closest thing I’ve had out here in Buffalo! I have tried to buy fresh clams in grocery stores here and haven’t had great experiences. Usually half of the clams are dead upon arrival to my house and must be discarded and it leaves me questioning the integrity of the remaining ones. So I took a cue from the good folks at America’s Test Kitchen and went with canned clams. I had never used them and wasn’t thrilled with the idea initially but let me tell you that now I am a believer. Choose good quality canned clams and clam juice and you will have no problem.
This clam chowder is full of flavor thanks for many things. You start by building a flavor base with delicious, smokey bacon in your dutch oven. To this you saute onion and garlic. So already, how can you go wrong? Clam juice comprises the majority of the soup itself and this is the essence of the soup really. It lends that taste of the sea, in a good way! Dry sherry is added along with a splash of Worcestershire sauce- both add a nice depth of flavor to this soup. Potatoes are simmered in the broth with some thyme and bay leaves and the whole thing is finished with cream, the clams and parsley. Delicious.
The following recipe calls for 4 cans of minced clams but I like a nice “clammy” chowder so I usually add 1 can minced and 4 cans of chopped. You can of course stick with what the recipe calls for but you know I like to change things up a bit. The sherry and Worcestershire are also my additions. The soup is great without them but they add another level of flavor. Sherry is great in any creamy soup so I couldn’t resist adding a bit of it here.
(Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen: Family Cookbook)
- 4 – 6.5 oz. cans of chopped clams (I prefer these over minced, I like the bigger clam pieces. If you want really clammy clam chowder use 5 cans with juice- I usually do!)
- 3 – 8oz bottles of clam juice
- 3 tbsp. dry sherry
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ pounds of red potatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dry
- 6 slices of bacon, chopped fine
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup heavy cream (up to ¼ cup additional cream for a thicker chowder)
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
- Drain the clams but retain the juice and add it to the bottled clam juice to make about 5 cups worth, adding water if needed to reach 5 cups.
- In a dutch oven, cook bacon till it is beginning to crisp, 5-8 minutes.
- Add in the chopped onions and cook till they are softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add in the garlic and cook till it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in flour and stir to coat vegetables. Cook for an additional minute.
- Gradually whisk in the 5 cups of clam broth.
- Stir in the sherry and Worcestershire sauce.
- Stir in the potatoes, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Stir in the clams, cream and parsley. Return to a simmer briefly, and then remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste.