I think most people enjoy a really good New England clam chowder (vegetarians aside) but I don’t know anyone who makes it themselves; probably because the thought of shucking fresh clams is daunting.
I want to share this recipe because it’s one of the best clam chowders I’ve tasted and you can make it using canned clams. It has a little kick, too – you can omit the chili if you prefer but it wouldn’t taste as lively.
This version isn’t as gluey as some others but it’s so chock full of clams and other good stuff that it’s a meal in itself; just serve with some hot crusty bread on the side. It’s also really easy to make – perfect for winter!
NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER
(Serves 4 as a main course)
3 x 8 oz (237ml) bottles of clam juice
1 lb (454g) of russet/baking potatoes, peeled and cut into half inch (approx 1cm) cubes
2 oz (57g) of butter
3 slices of bacon (streaky), chopped finely
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) of all-purpose/plain flour
40oz (1.134g) of canned chopped or whole baby clams; drained and juices reserved
1 ¼ (300ml) cups of half and half (half and half is somewhere between full cream milk and cream, so get creative if you can’t buy it where you are)
¾ – 1 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
Bring the bottled clam juice and diced potatoes to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes.
Melt the butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until just starting to brown; add the chopped onion, celery, garlic, chili flakes and bay leaf; sauté gently until tender.
Stir in the flour and mix really well – cook for 2 minutes; don’t allow the flour to brown.
Slowly whisk in the reserved juice from the canned clams.
Once it’s well blended, add the potato-clam juice mix and half and half, then simmer for at least 5 minutes. Check for seasoning and add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper if needed.
You can make it up to 24 hours ahead – refrigerate and slowly bring to a simmer to serve.