New England Clam Chowder
Our recipe for New England Clam Chowder is a lighter version than most. We substitute a combination of whole milk and half-and-half in place of heavy cream to cut the richness while keeping the same smooth, thick texture. Topped with Pan-Toasted Croutons (recipe included), crumbled bacon and a handful of fresh chopped chives, it really is a meal in a bowl. Serve with salad and a full-bodied, oaky chardonnay
- 2 dozen top neck clams (see recipe notes for substitutions)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 lb bacon, chopped
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped
- 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
- 4 small red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2-1/2 cups reserved clam juice
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup half-and-half
- Few dashes of Tabasco (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped and divided
Rinse the clams under cold running water to remove any exterior sand and place in a large pot. Add the wine and some cold water to 1/2-inch depth in the bottom of the pot. Cover, bring the liquid to a boil and cook just until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Removing the clams as they open with a pair of tongs keeps them from getting overcooked. Once all of the clams are cooked, strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and set aside (a coffee filter set into a large funnel works well for this). Remove the clams from their shells, chop roughly and set aside. You should have about 2 cups.
Wipe out any excess liquid from the pan and add the chopped bacon. Fry over medium-high heat until crisp and brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and blot the excess fat. Crumble the bacon and set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan, lower the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes, then add the celery, carrots and potatoes.
Continue cooking until the vegetables are soft and the potatoes are tender. Add the butter to the pan and combine well. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and toss until the vegetables are thoroughly coated. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour coating has developed a golden color, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add 2-1/2 cups of the reserved clam cooking liquid to the vegetable mixture and stir. Cook until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Add the bay leaves, thyme, milk and half-and-half. Stir to combine well, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped clams to the soup and cook for 2 minutes longer until they are heated through. Add the Tabasco, if desired, and some freshly ground black pepper to taste (you probably won't need any salt). Stir in the parsley and 2 tablespoons of the chives.
To serve, spoon the soup into 4 bowls, top with crumbled bacon, Pan-Toasted Croutons and the reserved chopped chives.
Makes 4 servings
Top neck clams are about 2-1/2 inches in diameter and have a good amount of meat, but any fresh clams that will yield about 2 cups of meat when chopped will work nicely. You can even use canned clams and their broth or bottled clam juice. The liquid quantities should remain the same.
Cut Italian or French bread into 3/4-inch cubes. You'll need about 1-1/2 cups total. Simply melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat, add the bread cubes and cook until they are golden and toasty - about 3 minutes should do it. Remove from the heat and set aside until time to serve.