A Boatload of New England Clam Chowder

Mary Anne here. Writing this recipe tonight reminds me of the old expression “Mad dogs and Englishmen” as it’s probably a bit insane whipping up my lazy man’s chowder amidst an early June heat wave. But I do love chowder and since summer just seems to scream for clams, I’ve dutifully transcribed my favorite rendition in all its creamy, salty, satisfying glory! Although I prepare this in a somewhat slothful manner – i.e. I buy canned clams instead of steaming them (and myself) out of their little shells –  what this brew lacks in effort, it more than makes up for in flavor. Bonus: I barely broke a sweat when whipping this up in a record 45 minutes.

Traditionally, chowder is thickened with a roux as its base, but I find that it makes a “gluey” broth and so I rely on diced, un-skinned potatoes to beef up my potage. This produces a cleaner taste with more punch from the clams – canned or fresh.

This rich soup makes a hearty dinner when served alongside crisp oyster crackers, a simple green salad, and a chilled glass of Chardonnay. Finish this summery repast with Mariel’s cool new confection – Key Lime Pie Pops – and you’ve got an easy meal from its salty start to its last sweet lick.

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Classic New England Clam Chowder
Serves 6

For the purists – how to prepare this soup with fresh clams:
About 6 lbs. of Littleneck or Cherrystone clams clams, steamed with a carrot or 2 and a stalk of fresh celery in 2 cups of water. Boil for 5 minutes, until the clams have opened. Ditch the closed clams, and strain and reserve the broth (both inside the shells and the boiling water itself) through a wire mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Swap out the recipe’s bottled clam juice for your own home-brewed juices! Transfer the clams to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

3-6.5 oz. cans chopped clams, strained and juices reserved – $5.37
1 cup bottled clam juice – $2.19
5 slices bacon, coarsely chopped – $3.99
2 Tablespoons sweet butter – stock
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped – $1.17
4 Yukon Gold or medium-size boiling potatoes –
2 cups light cream or half and half – $1.50
2 Teaspoons dried thyme – stock
2 Bay leaves – stock
2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped – $0.99
salt and freshly ground pepper – stock
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry: $15.21
Total Per Serving: $2.54

1. In a large stockpot, sauté the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisping but still soft. Add the butter, onion, Bay leaves, and thyme. Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Stir in the potatoes, tossing well with the onions and bacon. Add the reserved as well as bottled clam juices (top off with a small amount of water, if necessary, to make 3 cups.) Simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 6 to 9 minutes. Skim off any foam that accumulates during the simmering process.

3. Add the clams and half and half or cream, and continue to simmer over medium-low flame until the clams are heated through, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

4. Transfer to individual serving bowls. Garnish with the parsley and a small pat of butter, if desired.


    • feastonthecheap says

      Why thank you, Liz! But no seafood in your life?? I LOVE almost any form of shellfish, but sometimes wonder if it’s the seafood I adore or the accompanying butter and remoulades! Either way, maybe this chowder will make a convert out of you! Thanks so much for writing and hope you have a wonderful weekend. Cheers!

    • feastonthecheap says

      Thanks! It really is as good as it looks and delicious even in our weird east coast-tropical heat!!

  1. agnes aliberto says

    YUMMY-yum- yum–a delicious recipe ., a true FEAST ON THE CHEAP ! Great photo !{Makes me hungry -just looking at it} xxxxoo love , Mrs. A

  2. says

    Reminds me so much of the year we spent on the Maine-New Hampshire coast when my husband was in the Navy. Clams and lobsters *everywhere*!! And I haven’t had a really good chowder since we moved back home. Thanks for a recipe that I know I can depend on to be fantastic.

    • feastonthecheap says

      Oh- thanks, Lana! I think you’ll be happy with this rendition. Lots of flavor and substance. Let me know what you think. Cheers!

  3. says

    You certainly hit a weak spot of mine with this soup. I adore a good clam chowder and yours looks spot on. Wonderful recipe as always!

  4. says

    Were going to ocean in a few days and I always like tomake a batch of clam chowder when I’m there. Sending this to the printer!

  5. Darlene says

    Added diced celery with the bacon onion mixture. Added some flour to make a roux at that stage as I like my chowder thicker. Used 1/2 cup white wine along with the clam juice and water to make 3 cups. Also added some smoked oysters for an extra smoky chowder.

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