Simple New England Clam Chowder

16 Apr

For my dad’s birthday this year, J and I decided to cook him up a birthday seafood feast. The first thing he requested was New England clam chowder. He threw out a few more ideas but I already had a pretty good idea that we’d make scallops as a main. He almost always orders scallops when we go out, I was pretty sure they would go over well. Okay then! To the cookbook shelf!

I ended up making a slightly modified version of Martha Stewart’s New England clam chowder. I went with beautiful pre-cooked clams from St. Lawrence Market and some clam juice instead of fresh clams. There was a fair bit of work to be done for dinner in a small kitchen and, quite frankly, I was able to add a ton of flavour- and clams – to the soup while being able to spend more time with my guests. I’ll try ’em one day, but not that day. The recipe below, however, uses fresh clams and has a few of my own adjustments.

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

25 fresh clams
3 c water
2 oz pancetta, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 c heavy cream

Directions

1. Combine clams and water in a medium stockpot.Cover and bring to a boil. Cook until clams have opened, 5 to 6 minutes. Discard any that don’t open.
2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the clams. Strain the broth through a fine sieve lined with a coffee filter, which should result in about 4 cups of liquid. You can always add a little more if you need it. When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from their shells and coarsely chop.
3. Clean the stockpot you used and put it back on the heat at medium. Add the pancetta and cook 3-4 minutes. Some fat should render out and coat the bottom of the pot. (If there isn’t enough, add a little bit of butter.) Toss in the onions and sweat them til translucent, another 3-4 minutes.

Potatoes & onions & pancetta! Oh my!

4. Add the liquid, potatoes, thyme and bay leaves into the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook til the potatoes are tender, roughly 8-10 minutes. (If you like a thicker chowder, you can mash some of the potatoes in the pot.)
5. Add in the clams and the cream: DO NOT BOIL. The cream will separate.  Cook for just another minute and season to taste.
6. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and serve immediately.

Chow-dah!

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