Top | The Cape Cod Table
(recipe, Lora Brody)
Here on Cape Cod there are as many recipes for clam chowder as there are clams in the sea. This one takes the very best elements of several dozen versions and puts them together to make a creamy, rich meal in a bowl that even New Yorkers will have to admit beats anything with tomatoes.
Although you can certainly start by digging and shucking your own clams, most fish stores and many supermarkets sell shucked, chopped clams — my preference. While some recipes call for thickening clam chowder with flour, I don’t like the library-paste texture that can result (actually, I don’t like to use thickener at all), so those of you who are used to the thick consistency of many commercial varieties will find this soup on the thin side. If you wish to thicken it up, see the instructions at the end of the recipe.
- 3 oz. salt pork or thick slab bacon, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped into medium dice
- 3 stalks celery (with leaves), rinsed and cut into small dice
- 3 cups Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
- 4 cups bottled clam juice
- 1½ pt. (3 cups) chopped fresh clams, drained, liquid reserved
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 cups light cream
- Salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into slices, for garnish
- Paprika for garnish
- Place the salt pork or bacon in a heavy skillet and set over moderate heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is brown and crisp, then use a slotted spoon to remove it to a paper towel to drain.
- Add the onion and celery to the drippings and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until they are wilted and the onion is golden.
- Use the slotted spoon to add the cooked salt pork or bacon and vegetables to a soup kettle. Discard the fat in the sauté pan and scrape any of the brown drippings that remain into the soup kettle. Add the potatoes and clam juice (both the bottled juice and the liquid reserved from the fresh clams).
- Set the kettle over high heat, cover, and bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
- Stir in the milk and cream and heat, uncovered, without allowing the mixture to boil. When the mixture is hot, add the clams and cook for another 5 minutes without boiling. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately, ladling the chowder into heated bowls and garnishing each with a pat of butter and a sprinkling of paprika.
For a thicker chowder, add 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour to the pan after you have cooked and removed the salt pork and drained off all but 3 tablespoons of the fat. Whisk continuously over moderate heat until the mixture is smooth. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add this slurry to the chowder after the potatoes have been cooked, and stir well to combine. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the chowder is slightly thickened before adding the remaining ingredients.