A Boatload of New England Clam Chowder

by feastonthecheap on June 2, 2011

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.