Jun 12, 2018

New England Clam Chowder

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 50 mins
A proper New England clam chowder should consist of a delicate and creamy, slightly thickened broth (but not sludgy) that contains a hint of smokiness from bacon and an abundance of clams.

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Manhattan clam chowder has nothing on New England clam “chowda.” A proper New England clam chowder recipe should consist of a delicate and creamy, slightly thickened broth (but not sludgy) that contains a hint of smokiness from bacon and an abundance of clams.

My true appreciation for New England clam chowder came from going to Martha’s Vineyard during the summer when I was younger. My brother and I would take our kayaks out in the water with our Dad and our family friend, Sam, to go clamming. You use a large rake to dig through and find the clams under the sand. When we got back to the beach house, Sam would make us clam chowder with the clams that we brought in.

New England Clam Chowder

 

 

new england clam chowder recipe from cooking with cocktail rings staub

Ingredients in Clam Chowder

Clams

I always use littleneck clams for New England clam chowder. I find them to be much more tender and easier to serve whole than larger clams. If you have larger clams like quahog, give them a rough chop before they’re added to the soup. The clams can be steamed ahead of time just be sure to reserve the cooking liquid as well.

Bacon

Chopped bacon adds a smokey touch to the soup while cooking in the vegetables in the bacon fat adds much more flavor to the base of the soup. If you choose to omit the bacon, then use butter to cook the vegetables.

Onion

Yellow onions are my go-to all purpose onion. While they have a strong flavor when they are raw, the flavor mellows when they’re cooked.

Celery

When paired with onion celery adds depth of flavor to the soup. Sautéed onions turn slightly sweet.

Roux

The leftover bacon fat is used as the base of the roux which will thicken the soup. Flour is cooked in the bacon fat until golden to keep the soup from getting grainy with any lingering taste of flour.

Chicken Stock

Chicken stock adds flavor to the broth. I use half chicken stock and half of the clam liquid so that the broth doesn’t have too much of an overpowering seafood flavor.

Potatoes

The potatoes are simmered in the broth until fork-tender. I use classic Russet potatoes in this soup though waxy potatoes work very well because they hold their shape more.

Heavy Cream

The cream is used to create a rich, velvety soup. Rather than create a milk base I use a chicken stock and clam base finished with heavy cream.

new england clam chowder recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

How to Make Clam Chowder

Step 1

Steam the clams, remove them from their shells and set aside the clam meat and cooking liquid.

Step 2

Cook the bacon until it’s crispy then use a slotted spoon to set the bacon aside and return the pan to heat, reserving as much bacon fat as possible.

Step 3

Add the butter and allow to melt then add the onion and celery and sauté until tender.

Step 4

Add the garlic and cook briefly then stir in the flour.

Step 5

Add the chicken stock, reserved cooking liquid, bay leaves, potatoes, and thyme and simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Step 6

Add the cream and continue to simmer until slightly thickened.

Step 7

Discard the bay leaves and sprig of thyme. Add the bacon and clams to the broth, then stir in the Worcestershire and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Step 8

Ladle the soup into bowls, top with chives, and serve with oyster crackers.

new england clam chowder recipe from cooking with cocktail rings closeup soup

What to do if clams are out of season

If clams are out of season of if you can’t find fresh ones, you can substitute with one pound of chopped canned clams and 2½ cups of clam juice (in place of the steamed clams and water).

When fresh clams, discard any clams that are already partly opened before steaming or ones that do not open after steaming as they are already dead and likely have gone bad.

Hot tip: Try adding a bit of Crystal or Tabasco hot sauce at the end for a kick of spice.

new england clam chowder recipe from cooking with cocktail rings closeup

New England Clam Chowder

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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 6 ounces bacon, sliced into strips
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup finely diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
  • Oyster crackers, as needed, for serving

Instructions:

  • Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring 3 cups of water to the boil, add the clams and cover the pot. Cook until the clams have all opened, about 8 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and set a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Pour the clams through the strainer and reserve the cooking liquid. Once the clams have cooled, remove the meat from the shells, and discard the shells. Chop the clams and set aside.
  • Add the bacon to a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, about 5 minutes.
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, reserving as much fat in the pan as possible. Add the butter and allow to melt then add the onion and celery.
  • Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and opaque, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, until the flour is pale brown.
  • Add the chicken stock, 2½ cups of the reserved cooking liquid, bay leaves, potatoes, and thyme. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer for about 30 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally, until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Discard the bay leaves and sprig of thyme. Add the bacon and clams to the broth, then stir in the Worcestershire and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with chives, and serve piping hot with oyster crackers on the side.

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