We used to live in the Seattle area, a place where any night of the week, any month of the year, you could go ANYwhere and find a good chowder, scratch that, a near perfect chowder, without too much hassle. I never even attempted to make a clam chowder from scratch before, because we could order it regardless if we were eating from a place with a drive-through or a fancy restaurant.
Now, however, we live in beautiful Northwest Montana! A couple of restaurants serve clam chowder on Friday nights. (I rarely crave clam chowder, by the way, on a night designated by a restaurant’s specials!) One of those is actually really good, the other is a really close second. Another restaurant, a finer dining establishment who specializes in seafood, serves chowder, but they are a bit spendier so we don’t go there often and its usually a “seafood chowder” not a clam chowder. (When I’m craving clam chowder, “seafood chowder” isn’t going to cut it.)
The past couple of months I decided to start my search for good New England Clam Chowder recipes. (For fans of Manhattan style, sorry, I’ve never actually eaten it! I hate to admit that, but I haven’t! If anyone can recommend a good recipe for it, I will try it though. I was raised on the creamy goodness of New England & that’s what I know. I’ve always been curious about the red sauce, just not curious enough to order it in a restaurant, my bad). When I see friends post about their recipes I ask questions, I research & compare online…the search has been long. The recipe below is the collaboration of about 3 different recipes that I have merged & tweaked into something that worked out pretty well. I used techniques from one & seasonings from another & mixed them all together & added a bit of me in there too. The family loved it & I think that you will too. Please feel free to comment below if there is anything that you would add or do differently, this was my first attempt.
*Everyone likes their clam chowder a little differently. Our family likes a really thick chowder, so at the end I made a roux with 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter and equal amount of flour (8 Tbsp or 1/2 C) and stirred it into the pot until it was thoroughly mixed into the chowder. You could make the roux and stir it in, a couple Tbsp at a time if you want until it is the desired thickness. It was just more of a soup consistency than a chowder consistency at finish, I thought.*
**The recipes that I found online gave good instructions on using fresh clams. Given that I no longer live on the coast, I opted to use canned (which is common for chowders, so I don’t feel like a schmuck). I don’t want to post the fancy fresh clam instructions as if the are my tips that I used. When I get my hands on some good clams & try it myself, & take some photos, I will update this post with those tips & photos as an option as well. I feel fake putting someone else’s “how to” on here as if it were mine when I haven’t even tried it yet. I will list the quantity you would need for fresh clams so that you can look up proper technique if you would like.**
Clams: fresh-14 Lbs, medium-size hard-shell clams (topneck or small cherrystone) washed and scrubbed clean; canned– 8 cans chopped clams (reserve juice) and 4 bottles of clam juice 8 slices thick-cut applewood or hickory smoked bacon cut into 1/4″ pieces (I prefer applewood, DO NOT USE MAPLE) 2 large yellow onions, diced 4 Tbsp flour 6-8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced 1 cup cooking sherry 2 large bay leaves 2 tsp fresh thyme 2 c heavy cream 4 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves 2 tsp Italian seasoning 1/2 tsp dill black pepper salt white pepper
Here we go…
Before we get started, when I cooked this (& took the pictures) I wasn’t sure exactly how much it was going to make. It ended up making enough for everyone to have exactly 1 large bowl (the toddler 1 normal her-sized bowl) and my husband a little extra. No leftovers. I hate it when there are no leftovers because I actually schedule “leftover nights” into our menu calendar! I cook, generally, 4 nights a week, my husband cooks 1 night a week (or sometimes we’ll go out or to a friend’s house or something) & then we have a couple of nights devoted to cleaning out the fridge! My 12 year old is a Chowder Connoisseur & was hoping for leftovers! I, got everyone dished up, ate, then because it turned out so good was going to fill a bowl to get a pic for the blog, but alas…you get pics of pots, but no finished bowl this time, because it all went into tummies instead…
My point you ask? The amounts listed in the ingredients above are double what I used when I made it for my family of 5 (4+a toddler). The pictures that I took during the cooking process will look like less than what is reflected above, or you may think that I have the roomiest pot EVER. If you have a smaller family, but enjoy chowder, I would leave it & enjoy leftovers. If you have a larger family, double it! Most of us would have happily enjoyed a second bowl & were very sad, luckily we had rolls & salad…onto our chowder!
First I drained my clams reserving the clam juice into a medium bowl or large Pyrex measuring cup. I looked for the highest quality clams I could find since canned were my best choice right now. Many quality natural food stores carry them too. You want to look for clams that are in their own natural juices or broth. If that is not what the label indicates, please do not reserve the juice & purchase an extra couple of bottles of natural clam juice/broth, & rinse & strain your clams a few times before it is time to put them into the chowder.
Time for the bacon!
Fry the bacon in a large pot over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps. Add the onion to the bacon and saute until softened (about 5 minutes).
Add the flour and stir until lightly colored (about 1 minute). Gradually whisk in the reserved clam juice, then the sherry. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, black pepper and thyme. Simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes).
Add clams, cream, dill, and parsley. Add salt and white pepper to taste, and bring the dish to a simmer. *This is where I added the roux, again some like it soupier, some like it thicker. Remove from heat and serve with oyster crackers or hearty bread.
This last pic was just before the final roux. Next time I make it, I will take pics in bowls with happy satisfied kids’ faces who got second helpings. I really wasn’t sure exactly how much it would make or how it would turn out, I don’t make homemade cream-based soups & sauces often. My (also Seattle area raised) hubby compared it to Anthony’s Homeport, which is kinda of a Seattle staple for seafood lovers, so I am satisfied. I hope you & your family like it. Please click “follow” if you like what you see here, & comment below if you have any imput or would like to see anything specific from me. I love experimenting with new things! ~paige