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Fish and Shellfish, Soups

Thick and creamy Boston clam chowder

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
  • 1/4 pound salt pork, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 cups clam liquor, clam broth, bottled clam juice or a combination (see Note)
  • 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 large bay leaf, broken in half
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped hard-shell clams (see Note)
  • 2 cups half-and-half or light cream
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Step 1In 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 pork with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels and reserve, leaving drippings in pot.

Step 2Add onion to drippings and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle on flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add milk and clam liquor, whisking until smooth. Add potatoes, bay leaf and dried thyme and cook uncovered until potatoes are almost tender, 10 minutes. Add clams and fresh thyme (if using) and stir in half-and-half. Continue to simmer until potatoes are tender, about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Remove from the heat and let chowder sit, partly covered, at cool room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat gently, discarding the bay leaf.)

Step 3To serve, ladle chowder into soup bowls, add a small square of butter and stir to swirl in. Sprinkle with reserved salt pork cracklings if desired.

Note: You can buy chopped fresh clams from a fish market or use 5 quarts of scrubbed hard-shell quahogs and steam them in a small amount of water in a large kettle until they open, 5 to 15 minutes, depending on size. Then scrape out the clam meat and chop or cut it with scissors into cranberry-size pieces. Pour cooking liquid into a glass measuring cup, let any mud settle and pour off clean broth. This is clam liquor.
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