This chowder is stick-to-your-ribs, creamy satisfaction in a bowl!
Is there anything more satisfying than a cup of chowder? And no, Manhattan clam chowder does not count. My cup runneth over with love for the island of Manhattan, but Manhattan clam chowder is simply a travesty. That silly red soup should be stripped of the word chowder and called vegetable soup with clams. But New England clam chowder…so rich and creamy, chock full of potatoes and clams, flavored with the smokiness of pork…. now that is a chowder.
I’m coming in hot off a chowder tasting expedition to Boston. Okay, so chowder wasn’t the only reason for our visit, but it’s not something I would oppose. We took the kids for a long weekend (they’ve never been) to see a few sights, visit good friends and yes, to taste some real honest-to-goodness clam chowder. We crammed an impressive amount of tastings into a two day trip and were pretty satisfied across the board.
The flavor was on point for most of the chowders we sampled, but consistency was the most noticeable difference. They ranged from thick (and borderline gloppy) to thin-ish (but not watery). I definitely prefer a soup or a chowder that my spoon won’t stay upright in if I let go. A soup is a soup, it’s not a pudding and shouldn’t be the consistency of mashed potatoes. Creamy and satisfying…yes. Gloppy and floury….no.
My recipe for New England clam chowder starts with bacon. It’s cooked until crispy and those tasty drippings are left right in the pan to sauté the onion. Next we layer the flavors with onions and celery, cooked until soft and golden. I stir in a little flour for thickening and take a shortcut by using canned clams and broth. (Bonus points to you if you go the extra mile and make your own clam stock using fresh clams). I use half and half, with an extra splash of heavy cream and several cups of diced Yukon Golds for a hearty texture. Fresh herbs and a splash of Tabasco round out our chowder and a handful of oyster crackers sprinkled over the top for serving make it a meal.
I think I’ve done New England proud with my take on a classic chowda and brought a little Boston back to Jersey. At least we won’t have to wait for another trip up north to satisfy our chowder cravings and we’ll stick to Manhattan for what it does best…pizza.
- 5 slices bacon
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 5 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3- 6.5 oz canned clams, chopped (drain and reserve juice)
- 3 cups clam juice
- 3 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1/2 inch dice (about 4 cups)
- dash of hot sauce (Tabasco)
- 2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- 1/4 tsp celery salt
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Set a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over med/high heat and lay the strips of bacon in the bottom of the pan.
Cook the bacon, flipping once, until brown and crispy. Remove to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the butter to the bacon grease in the pot (don't drain) and lower the heat to medium. Add the onion and celery and cooked until soft and golden, about 5-7 mins.
Stir in the flour and cook for 2 mins. Slowly stir in the clam juice (you should have about 4 1/2 cups including the reserved juice). Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and add the potatoes, hot sauce, herbs and seasonings. Season generously with kosher salt.
Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked though, about 15 mins.
Stir in the half and half, heavy cream, clams and bacon (crumbled). Cover and simmer over very low heat, about 10 mins.
Spoon into bowls or cups and serve with oyster crackers if desired.