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Razor Clam Chowder

(recipe, Langdon Cook)


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Introduction

My grandmother Mimi used to make a New England-style fish chowder when all the relatives gathered on Cape Cod for the Fourth of July weekend. I can remember watching epic tennis matches between Björn Borg and John McEnroe while slurping down the chowder with a lot of oyster crackers thrown in for good measure. But once Mimi was gone, the recipe was too. I've tried to re-create it with both clams and cod, and after consulting with numerous cousins, aunts, and uncles over the years, I'm pretty sure I've almost got it. A key ingredient is thyme. And don't even consider making this chowder without bacon.

Ingredients

  1. 4 to 5 strips (about ¼ pound) of thick, quality bacon, diced
  2. 1 large onion, sliced into wide half-moons
  3. 2 to 3 cups peeled and cubed red potatoes
  4. 3 Tbsp. butter
  5. 3 Tbsp. flour
  6. 1 qt. chicken stock or clam juice, or a mixture of both
  7. 1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme
  8. Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  9. 1 pt. heavy cream (or half-and-half)
  10. 2 cups chopped razor clams (with as much juice as can be salvaged)

Steps

  1. Sauté the bacon in a heavy pot over medium heat until crispy; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel.
  2. Sauté the onions for a few minutes in the bacon fat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes start to brown slightly. Remove the onion-potato mixture and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in the same pot and slowly mix in the flour to make a roux. The roux is ready when it starts to color up, turning a faint yellowish and then pinkish. Slowly add the stock. Return the onions and potatoes to the pot and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Add the thyme and seasonings. Slowly stir in the cream, then add clams and cook over low heat another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  5. Sprinkle with the reserved bacon, crumbled if desired. Serve hot with good bread or oyster crackers.