It has been raining on and off since Friday. Yesterday, when I went to the farmer’s market, it was more on than off. As I was driving there and the rain started to let up, I was hopeful that my shopping would end up being dry; I was wrong. With the raining come down as I stood half covered by the awning of the seafood vendor, I decided that the only appropriate option would be clam chowder.
I’m not from New England. I’ve only been there a handful of times and I’ve never eaten clam chowder there. Previously, clam chowder was a bland, generic milky soup that either came out of a can or was served at a generic restaurant.
Despite all the bad versions I’ve had, the Platonic ideal of New England clam chowder has always appealed to me. Somewhere, there was a creamy but flavorful soup that actually tasted of clams.
This may not be the form of the perfect clam chowder but it’s still quite good. I’ve made this recipe a few times now and it’s always worked out for me. The original doesn’t include any cayenne pepper or Tabasco but they both help to cut through the brinyness of the clams while not overpowering the flavor of the clams.
On this rainy, chilly night, clam chowder matched the mood. With a sliced baguette to sop up the broth, it was nearly perfect.
New England Clam Chowder
Adapted from The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 or 4 slices of bacon, cut into lardons
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic gloves, diced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
12 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and diced, divided
1 bay leaf
1 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 pint of shucked clams, drained, juice reserved
12 fluid oz. clam juice
1.5 cups heavy cream
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a large dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook until well browned and the fat rendered from the bacon. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.
- Add the onion, garlic, half the thyme, and celery to the dutch oven. Season with a pinch of salt and book until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the reserved clam juice and bottled clam juice. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.
- Add the clams and simmer for one minute more.
- Add the heavy cream and simmer until the cream thickens slightly.
- Season with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and Tabasco to taste.
- Add the remaining thyme and the bacon, stir well, and serve immediately with bread.