The temperature has been hovering in the 20’s (or lower) for the better part of two weeks. That, to me, is chowder weather. Though I grew up in Maine and have been back for 18 months, I had never before made a clam chowder. Drawing on elements I like in other versions, with the input of Mom and notes from Homegrown, I put together this one, and am so pleased with the outcome! I used canned clams because I didn’t like the fresh options I found (and frankly, didn’t want to deal with steaming and shucking multiple pounds, or the expense) and suggest that option, or a similar quantity of frozen clams. If it’s as cold where you are as it is here, my New England clam chowder makes for a comforting, warming winter supper.
New England Clam Chowder (serves 6-8)
- 1 T. olive or canola oil
- 6 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
- 1 c. yellow onion, minced (1 small or 1/2 of a large onion)
- 1 c. celery, finely chopped
- 5 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. adobo seasoning* (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 3 T. flour
- two 6.5 oz cans chopped clams
- one 10 oz. can whole baby clams
- about 2 c. chicken stock (see notes below**)
- 1/2 – 1 tsp. kosher salt, to taste
- 1 c. heavy cream
Heat a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat. Add the oil, warm for 30 seconds, and then add bacon pieces; cook until the bacon is crisp and most of the fat has rendered out, about 5 mins. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces to a bowl or plate covered with a layer of paper towel. Remove all but 2 T. of the rendered fat and discard or use elsewhere.
Add the onions and celery to the 2 T. bacon fat left in the pot. Cook for about 5 mins, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the potatoes, smoked paprika, adobo, and pepper; sprinkle with flour. Stir until the spices and flour are distributed evenly; cook for 1-2 mins, stirring constantly. Drain the clam liquid from all three cans into a 4 c. (or larger) measuring cup; **add chicken stock until you have 4 c. total liquid. Add the clam stock mixture to the pot slowly, scraping the browned bits off the bottom as you go. The liquid should just cover the potatoes; add a touch more chicken stock (up to 1 c.) if needed.
Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low, just enough to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 20 mins, until the potatoes are cooked through. Taste the broth for seasoning. Keeping the heat very low, add the cream, then clams. Heat through without allowing the chowder to boil, just 2-3 mins. Taste again for seasoning. Serve immediately, with reserved bacon crumbled on top.
The chowder will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for 3-4 days.
*Adobo seasoning is usually available in grocery stores, sometimes in the spice aisle and sometimes in the Latin American specialty foods section. I like the tiny bit of garlic and oregano it adds, but it is optional.