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New England Clam Chowder 7Jun09

New England Clam Chowder

New England style clam chowder… I mean CHOWDA! Vini loooooooves clam chowder. We spent $8 on an imported can of Progresso Clam Chowder once… he was ecstatic, apparently well worth the $8. We have yet to see another can of Progresso at the fancy imported foods place so I figured it was time I tried to make this fabulous old favorite soup. Especially since it’s officially Winter now! Turns out, mine was better than Progresso, so I’m told.

This is the New England style clam chowder, which is the white kind with clams, bacon or salted pork and potatoes. Manhattan style has tomatoes in it so it’s red and has no cream or milk. Generally the Manhattan style is more of a brothy soup too. I’ve added carrots and celery to the traditional New England chowda because I like to sneak in veggies wherever I can :) . It’s a little less creamy than some versions I’ve seen at restaurants but again, no complaints from the taste tester so I think taste wise it was a success!

I used Australian bacon in this one which is a bit different to American bacon… it’s more like a thick Canadian ham with fat in it. The piece I had wasn’t too fatty so I had to add a little butter, but if your bacon is fatty enough, skip the butter! This soup is also not as thick but you can thicken it by just crushing some of the potato chunks in it.

Ingredients:
1 lb of clams or about 1/2 kilo, scrubbed and cleaned
3 cups of water
1 big piece of bacon or salted pork
1 big stalk of celery (just 1 piece of it), diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, diced
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed, peeled & diced (about 1/2 in cubes)
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup of cream
1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
fresh ground pepper
sea salt

Step 1: The broth!
Scrub the clams in cold water getting rid of any seaweed or crud. If some of them are open, tap them to see if they are dead… if they are alive, they will close up if you tap them. Toss the dead ones. In a medium pot, put in the cleaned clams and add the 3 cups of water. It should be the right amount to cover the clams just slightly. Bring that to a boil and cook until the clams open. About 4-5 minutes. Now scoop out the clams into a large bowl with a large spoon with holes or slots in it. The key is the broth so make sure you keep all of that! Now strain the broth into another large bowl by pouring it through a fine stainer or even a coffee filter. If you don’t have either… just let the broth settle before pouring very slowly and discard the drags at the end. Set the broth aside for later. When the clams have cooked, scoop out the meat and keep all the juices that comes out. Toss the shells and keep the meat and juices aside for later.

Step 2: The hearty soup!
Dice up the bacon or salted pork… you should have about 1/4 to 1/3 cup. In that same medium pot (after you washed and dried it), toss in the bacon in medium heat and cook down until the fat lines the bottom of the pan and the bacon is crispy. If there’s not enough fat, add in the tablespoon of butter. Now toss in the diced onions, diced shallot, and finely chopped garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Should be about 2-3 minutes. Now add in the carrots, celery and potato cubes. Mix it all around to get the flavors going for a minute or two. Then pour in the clam broth from before (not the clams!) and add in the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Season with a dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Simmer away for about 5 minutes and then remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Simmer for another 10 minutes on low heat until the vegetables are soft.

Step 3: The creamy part!
About 10 minutes before serving, add in the cream and clams. If the clams are a bit big, roughly chop them up a bit but make sure you keep the juices! Bring that to a simmer for about 5 minutes and you’re ready to serve! You don’t want to boil the cream too long or it will separate, but if you want the soup to be a bit thicker, you can crush up some of the potato bits.

It’s great with some crusty sourdough bread and dash of green onion on top. Or oyster crackers if you can find them. I tried to find a large round sourdough loaf to make a sourdough bread bowl like they have in San Francisco but the bakery I go to only does loaves of sourdough. Hope you like it!

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New England Clam Chowder

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