New England Clam Chowder


Clam chowder is not something we take lightly out in New England. There’s no excuse for anything less than fresh clams, homemade stock, or the marriage of those savory but creamy flavors. Having said that, each clam shack’s variety is different, but everyone has their favorite. Mine is at my own table. After nearly 4 years of shellfishing and cooking chowder, I finally feel that I’ve gotten my recipe just right. I tried my hand out on chowder early. My very first week after moving from Chicago, a big snow storm came in. The grocery store was packed and the water aisle looked like raccoons had gotten a hankering for water bottles. Amidst all of this unnecessary chaos, I was looking at the fish counter, making my first ever fresh clam purchase. While cooking, my power went out. My power went out for four days. Alone, I found myself wondering why I had come here and what was the meaning of it all. However, I did have a huge pot of clam chowder that lasted me the whole storm, stored out in the snow. It was literally, just me and the clams. My original, solitary chowder mainly used chopped, canned clams, with about a pound of fresh little necks thrown in at the end. I felt New England AF having those open up in the hot soup, and picking out the clam bodies as I spooned through my bowls of chowder. I had no idea how important using fresh stock and clams would be for perfecting the flavor. I also burned the bottom of the pan reheating it over and over. View for more photos of the prep work of the recipe. But I soon started digging for fresh shellfish, making friends, and sharing clam recipes at the dinner table. My chowder recipe today is a savory delicate broth, slow made with fresh clams and stock. Using both potatoes and sweet potatoes as a thickener sweetens the soup a little, but admittedly my chowder is not very thick. I like to be able to go overboard with bread and crackers to soak it all up. It’s not really just me and the clams anymore, but when I’m eating chowder it sure seems like it.

What you will need

5 pounds fresh little necks or cherrystone clams (I prefer the smaller ones because they’re sweeter)

3/4 cup white wine

4 slices bacon, chopped

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 medium russet potato (about ½ cup grated and another ½ cup chopped)

1 medium sweet potato (about ½ cup grated and another ½ cup chopped)

1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme (plus some for garnish)

12-15 dashes tabasco

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Crackers or bread (sourdough is nice)

Lemon (optional)


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