Diane Rossen Worthington
Classic New England Clam Chowder
Everyone has that first dish they prepared as a cook that made them proud. For me, it was white chowder that had a smoky bacon flavor and lots of clam meat. I was just learning what terms like sauteing and steaming meant. I used canned clams and lots of flour to thicken the soup. As a Californian, I thought my rendition was amazingly authentic. After all, New England clam chowder in Los Angeles came in bread bowls with more potatoes than clams and had so much flour that the soup could have been a stand-in for glue!
Through the years I have worked from that original recipe and, while not a New Englander, I can say I am proud of this recipe. The key to this soup is selecting best-quality clams. Littlenecks, which are hard-shelled clams, should be even-colored and firm, and have tightly closed shells. If a shell has opened slightly, tap it; it should immediately close tightly. If not, discard it. Hard shell clams require a good scrubbing under water to clean them thoroughly.
This version includes a bit of flour to lightly thicken the soup base. Don't worry -- the flour just gives the soup base a bit of structure. If you like a richer fish flavor, adjust with more clam juice or fish stock. You can also add corn kernels to this if you like. If you make this ahead, be sure to add more milk or stock when reheating for the proper consistency
Serve this with some chowder crackers. You can also accompany with crusty French bread. I like to serve this as a light main course with a simple green salad. A crisp Muscadet or Sauvignon Blanc would make a nice accompaniment.
New England Clam Chowder
3 pounds littleneck clams in their shells, well cleaned
1 cup clam juice or fish stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup diced salt pork
2 stalks celery, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 medium waxy red or white potatoes, about 2/3 pound, diced
3 cups whole milk or half-and-half
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Chowder crackers, for garnish
1. Place the clams in a large saucepan with the stock and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and steam the clams until they open, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard any clams that have not opened. Remove the clams from their shells (cut in half if very large), reserving a few in the shell for garnish.
2. Strain the clam juice through a fine strainer with cheesecloth to remove any grit. Reserve. (You should have about 1 1/2-2 cups).
3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan on medium-high heat and saute the onion until just softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the salt pork and saute another 2 minutes or until the pork is cooked through and the onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add the celery and saute another minute. Add the flour and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring to evenly cook the flour. Use a wooden spoon to stir the ingredients. Add the strained clam juice, diced potatoes, milk and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat, scraping up any of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat and simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
4. Remove the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper; add the parsley and the shucked and reserved whole clams. Cook another minute to warm the clams.
5. To serve, ladle the chowder into soup bowls and serve immediately with chowder crackers.
Chowder, Soup, American
Classic New England Clam Chowder
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