Recipe: New England Clam Chowder

Recipe: New England Clam Chowder

I learned two things living in New England for most of the 90s:

  1. I don’t especially like about 80% of things about New England.
  2. The 20% of things I did like, I really liked and clam chowder is included on that list. Click here to jump straight to the recipe and bypass my blabbering.

Let me just say here that this isn’t intended as a knock on New England. It didn’t work out for me, but I totally recognize that for someone else New England is wonderful and nobody should take my opinion of it as anything but just that – my opinion. I grew up in sunny Southern California, and arrived in New England three days ahead of the Blizzard of ’93. It was just a bit too much culture shock for me.

But I already loved clam chowder. As a kid growing up, we frequently visited Love’s Wood Pit BBQ which featured Boston style clam chowder on the menu, and it was my favorite. I could eat the hell out of some clam chowder and the canned stuff doesn’t really come close.

But man, did I ever find out when I fell in love with (and married) a Connecticut Yankee and moved to New England that even Love’s clam chowder didn’t compare. I’m sorry, Love’s. You’ll always be first in my heart for baked beans, but the chowder in New England? Nothing comes close.

(Mind you, this applies to creamy New England style, and Rhode Island/clear broth style chowder. So-called “Manhattan” chowder is an abomination and should only be made for people you don’t like. Fight me.)

Of all the things it would have never occurred to me to put in clam chowder, I’d have to say the biggest one was dill weed. Dill weed is excellent in chowder, and has become a staple of my homemade clam chowder. Oh yes, that’s what this post is about – homemade clam chowder. When we moved down South I decided it was time to learn to make it because I got kind of used to having good chowder available whenever up North. The Carolinas have good seafood, but it’s different seafood than what you typically get up North. Also, you kind of have to make chowder if you’re going to transplant your pet Yankee to elsewhere.

Fortunately, this chowder recipe isn’t at all difficult. I started out with a basic recipe, and made some changes to suit our tastes. It’s especially good served with fresh homemade sourdough but let’s be honest here: I’ll eat clam chowder no matter what it’s served with.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 4 cups potatoes, cubed
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • .5 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 6.5 oz cans minced clams
  • 1 cup clam juice, reserved from draining the canned clams.
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 3 tb butter
  • 1 tb dill
  • 2 tb flour (optional)

Instructions

In a stock pot or large soup pot, add the diced bacon and cook on medium-high heat until it’s starting to get crisp.

Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring, for about five minutes.

Add the 1 cup water and 1 cup clam juice, stir to deglaze the pot. Add the cubed potatoes, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil, covered, for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender. Give it the occasional stir just to make sure the potatoes don’t stick.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the butter, cream, half-and-half, and clams. Stir to mix. Add the flour and dill, and stir in. Allow it to cook on medium-low until it begins to simmer gently, stirring very frequently (constantly is okay). Make sure the chowder does not boil! Simmer gently until the chowder is the desired thickness, then remove from heat and serve.

Note – the flour can be left out for a slightly less thick soup, or can be substituted with 2 tb of cornstarch dissolved in 1 tb of water, if you need to avoid gluten.

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