18 March, 2016
New England Clam Chowder
Ever since I was a kid, one of my favorite foods has been New England Clam Chowder. Being that I live in the Seattle area, the benchmark has always been Ivar’s, a Seafood restaurant and fish bar with sever locations in the greater Seattle area. On Fridays, 1111 in Tacoma makes a pretty good chowder as well. Otherwise, while I do sample it most places, I generally feel let down. Most are pretty bland. Some have strange ingredients. Ok, I admit, corn in chowder is a strange concept to me and I’m not a fan of it.
Due to repeated disappointment with getting New England Clam Chowder in restaurants, I decided I needed to work on making my own and I tried… several times. And it kept coming out tasting like canned chowder. I could eat it if I had to but it was disappointing. I was using canned clams and canned nectar (well, ok, it was in a bottle). The flavor was just all wrong. Finally, I tried something different. I tried starting with fresh clams. I put 5 lbs of them in a pot with about 1-1/4 cup of water and steamed them for about ten minutes. I chopped up the meat after they cooled and I strained the remaining liquid through cheesecloth to remove the sand and shell bits.
On a whim, I decided to boil the potatoes and sauté the celery and onion. When I was finished, I was astounded. It was one of the best chowders I’ve ever had. I nearly did a victory dance in my kitchen. So, I hope everyone enjoys it!
5 lbs live clams
1-1/4 cup Water
Clam Nectar from cooking clams
4 strips thick cut bacon, cooked chopped
4 sprigs Thyme
½ teaspoon Tarragon
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
½ yellow or white onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons Flour
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cups Cream
- Place water in sauce pan and add 5 pounds of live clams. Turn burner on high and steam for about ten minutes. Remove open clams to a dish and give any remaining closed clams a couple more minutes of steam. Throw out any that don’t open.
- After cooling, take the water (clam nectar) remaining from steaming the clams and strain it through cheesecloth.
- Chopped the two potatoes into cubes (I usually aim for about ¼” cubes) and throw in large sauce pan. Add bay leaves, tarragon, and thyme. Pour in clam nectar and simmer over medium – medium high heat until fork tender.
- Chop the 4 strips of bacon and fry in frying pan over medium high until just short of crispy and pull out of pan and set aside. Save the grease, you’ll use it shortly as well.
- Add chopped onions, garlic, and celery to fry pan and sauté until celery begins to soften. Add flour and sauté a two more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Remove bay leaves and thyme from pan with potatoes.
- After sautéing, add onions, garlic and celery to the pan with the potatoes and clam nectar.
- Simmer potato mixture on medium for about 15 minutes.
- Add cream and simmer another 15 minutes.
- Add clams and simmer about 2 minutes, just to get the clams hot.
- Serve and enjoy (well, let it cool a little. Don’t burn your mouth or anyone else’s)