New England clam chowder ranks in my Top 10 list of comfort foods, and it's one of my favorite things to order in seafood restaurants. Recipes for clam chowder are hotly contested, and if you get into a discussion about chowder with New Englanders you are likely to get a wide variety of opinions on what is the best clam chowder. When I fix this soup I feel like I'm back in Maine, and that's good enough for me; serve it en boule and I think I've died and gone to heaven.
This recipe starts with cooking some bacon, then sautéing onions in the bacon drippings, cooking it all with clams, clam juice or stock, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf, and then adding the clams and corn and thickening it all up with some heavy cream. This chowder doesn't require loads of salt because of the bacon, plus canned clams are kept in brine, and the stock will be salted as well, so I use a light hand with the salt. I almost always use more than the amount of bacon specified in a recipe because I love my bacon. I confess I had a 12-ounce package and it all went into the pot for this chowder. All that flavor gets into the onions and then the flour soaks up some of it and it infuses the potatoes and mixes with the clams and creates a thing of beauty. We only have bacon a few times a year, so by golly I'm going to enjoy it!
If you are a die-hard steam-your-own-clams type, then by all means go for it. If we lived right on the coast and could get them fresh all the time, I would probably steam them myself, but canned minced clams are more economical for us, so that's what we use.
Fresh herbs add to the flavor, and bay and thyme are traditional herbs to add to clam chowder. Adding parsley during the last few minutes adds a bit of fresh flavor that balances the woodiness of the bay and thyme. The parsley and thyme came from my indoor garden, and hopefully in a few years my little bay laurel tree by the window will have grown some more and I will pick the leaves to toss into the pot for soups like this, but right now he's still a little guy with just a few leaves so I use dried. I'm hopeful he'll survive the next couple years as Monkey Boy (toddler) and Top Gun (almost 4) like the leaves, and I found Monkey Boy chewing on one this week!
This is my contribution to this week's edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, a weekly event founded two years ago by the wonderful Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. This week's host is Cate of Sweetnicks, so check out the blog next week for the round-up!
P.S. I made that little boules using the instructions in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Post on that coming soon!
Make It Gluten-Free
User gluten-free brown rice flour instead of all-purpose flour. Check to make sure that the bacon is gluten-free. Serve in a regular bowl or with gluten-free bread.
[Updated January 11, 2014.]
New England Clam Chowder
- 5 to 6-quart pot or Dutch oven with lid
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon (cut into ¼-inch pieces, add more bacon as you like)
- 1 large yellow onion (diced)
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free brown rice flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour )
- 16 ounces clam broth
- 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1-½ pounds, scrubbed and diced medium)
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme)
- 19.5 ounces chopped clams (3 cans, strained, reserving the juice)
- 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen, thawed if from frozen)
- 16 ounces heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (minced, plus more for garnish)
- sea salt to taste
- fresh ground black pepper
- Warm the pot over medium heat and fry the bacon until the fat renders and the bacon starts to crisp. Add the onion and cook until it's translucent. Stir in the flour and cook it until the mixture is lightly browned and has a slightly nutty flavor. If you can still taste flour, it's not ready.
- Gradually whisk in clam broth and the reserved clam juice from clams. Add potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. (Optional: Mash the potatoes a bit with a potato masher to help thicken the soup even more.)
- Add the clams, corn, cream, parsley, salt (taste first, may not be necessary) and ground pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and serve garnished with parsley and oyster crackers or in a bread bowl.
Wow, I am impressed you made the bread bowl too! I love clam chowder. I think bay leaves are essential in any soup of this type, and thyme sounds delicious here too.
Baking Soda says
Oomph! Looking so good! Bringing back memories of our first ever clam chowder while driving down route no.1. Served in a ceramic bowl though, not near as pretty as this one.
Too bad we don't have clams here!
I've always thought there are only a very few things that are good from a can - clams is one of the few. And clam chowder is a favorite of ours. Love it in the boule! That is classic.
Monkey boy chewing the bay, kids are great.
Yep, clam chowder's on my top 10 too! And I also only have bacon a couple of times a year and that's the recipe to do it in! Lovely.
And you served it in the little boule!!!! I think that's such a beautiful and comforting picture. I always order clam chowder when it's on the menu at a restaurant-but so often they mess it up. Yours looks so wonderful.
Peter Capaccio says
I assume that the flour is added to the bacon drippings to form a rue prior to adding the clamjuice ? The flour is on the list of ingredients but not in the preparation instructions. Anyway, that is how I will do it tonight.
Thanks for a great reciepe.
p.s. I will use half and half and a little corn starch mixed with water to thicken it up a little.
Hi Peter. Thanks for catching my typo, now fixed. Yes, I add the flour after rendering the bacon and make a light roux.
Really a very delicious recipe which I'll have to try this weekend. Looks and sounds so absolutely yummy. Thanks for sharing it.
New England Clam Chowder is one of my favorite soups and this recipe looks wonderful. I am going to make this in the next few days. Just gotta get the ingredients. MMMMMm!
This was the best clam chowder I ever made. Seriously. I made it for the first time 3 years ago and no other recipe has come close. You deserve some kind of award. Thank you so much for this.
Thanks Bunny! You made my day. 🙂