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Fish and Shellfish, Soups

Milky Maine steamer chowder

Milky Maine steamer chowder
Los Angeles Times

As I tour New England teaching cooking classes, no single subject prompts more questions and stirs more heated debate than chowder. "What makes a chowder a chowder and not a soup or stew?" "Are chowders always made with seafood?" And ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes | Serves 4
  • 2 1/2 pounds (about 50) soft-shell clams (see Note)
  • 1/4 pound salt pork, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups clam liquor, broth, bottled clam juice, or a combination (see Note)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 (12-ounce can) evaporated milk
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Step 1Scrub clams well and steam in a large pot with about 1 cup of water just until they open, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on their size. When cool enough to handle, remove clams from shells over cooking pot to catch juices. Pull black skin off the necks and, if clams are large, separate soft parts from the firm; chop firm parts. (If small, leave whole.) Strain broth through cheesecloth or dish towel and reserve.

Step 2In a large kettle or soup pot, cook salt pork over medium heat until fat is rendered and pork bits are crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels and reserve, leaving drippings in pot.

Step 3Add onion to drippings and cook until it begins to soften, about 6 minutes. Add diced potatoes and clam liquor, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, partly covered, until potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add clams and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in milk and evaporated milk and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Remove from heat and let chowder sit, at cool room temperature, at least 2 hours or refrigerate up to 2 days.)

Step 4Reheat over very low heat, stirring frequently, until chowder steams and is heated through. This chowder should not boil or it could curdle. Stir in butter until it melts and adjust seasonings if necessary. Ladle into shallow bowls to serve. Pass reserved salt pork bits for sprinkling on top if desired.

Note: Follow the directions in the body of the recipe for steaming the clams open, or you can shuck the raw clams relatively easily, if you prefer. First scrub the clams well to remove as much mud as possible. Use a small sturdy knife to separate the two shells, then scrape out the bodies, working over a bowl to catch any juices. Strain the flavorful liquor through a double layer of cheesecloth. This is clam liquor. If using raw clams, cook them about 5 minutes longer in the chowder. This chowder is one that benefits particularly well from a good long period of aging or ripening.

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