Living in coastal New England, having a good recipe for New England Clam Chowder as part of your recipe collection is an absolute must. And – if your recipe is an award-winning recipe like this one – even better!
Years ago, my husband Jack was part of a team that took first place at the Newport Chowder Festival which is held every summer at the Newport Yachting Center Marina in Rhode Island. For that cook-off, the team made 90 gallons of chowder and every last drop was eaten (it’s that good!) – and we are sharing a family-sized version of that recipe with you today!
This New England clam chowder is delicious! Tender clams and potatoes are combined in a creamy broth flavored with clam juice and cream, and a little bit of salt pork and bacon give this chowder a subtle smoky taste that perfectly complements the flavors of the clams.
Jack has very strong opinions about what makes a good New England clam chowder. Fresh clams and simple flavors are a must, and the consistency of a good New England clam chowder is not too thick and not too watery – somewhere in between is perfect!
Jack recommends using fresh cherrystone clams because they are smaller and more tender than quahogs which are typically used in making clam chowder – but the less expensive quahogs can also be used. Also – if you prefer a thicker consistency for your chowder, you can increase the amount of flour in the recipe by a tablespoon or two if desired.
Served with oyster or common crackers, this New England clam chowder is a delicious taste of New England in your own kitchen.Print
Note: Some people like really thick clam chowder. Although the traditional way is for this chowder to be brothy and not thick, if you prefer your chowder to be thick, just add a few more tablespoons of flour than is called for in the recipe and cook a few minutes before you add potatoes, broth and spices. You will need to stir often to make sure the chowder does not stick. Another option is to mix equal amounts of melted butter and flour to make a roux and add it at the end stirring a little at a time into the hot chowder until it reaches your desired consistency.
- 5 pounds of live cherrystone clams in shells (or quahogs), shells scrubbed. Note: If you live in an area where you can’t buy fresh clams, substitute 10 ounces of canned or frozen chopped clams and 3 cups of bottled clam juice. If cherrystones are not available and you use little necks, you will need to double the quantity of live live clams since the yield will be much less.
- 1 ounce of salt pork, diced
- 1 ½ ounces of bacon, diced fine
- 2 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup minced celery
- 1 cup of onion, chopped
- 2 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups of stock from cooking the clams
- 1 ¼ pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and ½” diced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried
- 1 bay leaf
- Black pepper
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Butter for serving
- In a pan large enough to hold the clams, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add clams and cover the pot. Cook over medium high heat for 7-9 minutes until they pop open (5-6 minutes if using little necks). If any clams don’t open, discard. Remove clams from broth and transfer to a sheet tray. Reserve the broth. Strain through a fine sieve lined with a coffee filter or cheese cloth. Strain a few times to remove all traces of sand.
- If broth is more than three cups, boil down to three cups to intensify flavor.
- Remove the clams from the shells. With a sharp knife, separate the belly and cut the rest of the meat into bite sized pieces. Then split the bellies lengthwise and scrape out and discard the contents. Cut bellies and add to the reserved chopped clams. Discard shells.
- If using little necks instead of cherrystones, after cooking lay the shelled clam on your cutting board and press a small knife across the belly to squeeze out the belly contents. The meat can be left whole.
- In a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, cook diced salt pork and bacon until rendered and slightly browned, about 5-10 minutes. Add butter and melt.
- Add celery, onions, garlic and half the potatoes and cook for about ten minutes or until onions are translucent. Stir often. Add flour and cook for another minute.
- Add 3 cups of reserved broth, the rest of the potatoes, thyme and bay leaf and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes..
- Once potatoes are tender, remove the pot from the heat, discard bay leaf and add chopped clams and cream. (If you are making this ahead of time, do not add the cream until you are ready to heat and serve.)
- Season chowder with pepper as needed and heat to serving temperature. Depending on how briny the clams are and since this recipe used salt pork, you may not need to put in additional salt.
- Serve with a dollop of butter over each portion and oyster crackers on the side.
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