Last summer I did a poll on Instagram on clam chowders – Manhattan vs. New England. The cream-based New England won by a long shot, at 80%. I’ve had a recipe for the tomato based Manhattan clam chowder here on the blog for a couple of years. But it was clear I needed to get my version of the cream based up here as well.
We’ve been doing our fair share of fishing lately. Alternating between going out on the sea side, and the bay side of the Eastern Shore. We’ve had some great days, including my first citation fish – a 14 pound sheepshead. Still walking on air over that one!
Often our fishing leaves sessions leave us with some leftover bait, in the form of fresh big chowder clams. Shout out to Chip, our clam man, who makes home deliveries!
The kids have also started to dig them up on Sundays when we’re out at Little Beach. Usually they’re smaller and we just toss them on the grill – but sometimes they’re big enough to become a pot of chowder.
At any rate, I finally got around to making it AND taking a photo of it. It’s rich and creamy, filled with chunks of bacon, potatoes, onions, celery, and chopped clams – that lend a lovely brininess. And as with most soups, it’s even better the next day!
If you can’t find fresh clams, no worries. You can easily used canned clams and clam juice – both of which are available at any grocery store.
New England Clam Chowder
24 large chowder clams*
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup cornstarch
oyster crackers, for serving
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Scrub the clams clean using a clean scrub brush. Place clams into a large pot and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cover. Steam the clams until they have all popped open, about 15 minutes. Remove the clams from the pot and set aside to cool.
Strain the clam steaming liquid through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer to remove any grit and reserve the liquid. Remove the clams from the shells and chop well (I use my food processor and give it about 5 pulses). Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or stockpot (I use the same one that I use to steam the clams), add the bacon and cook over medium-high until the bacon is crispy – about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pot to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside to drain. Add the celery and onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the broth, potatoes, thyme, bacon, chopped clams, and reserved clam juice. Stir to combine, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 35 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add in cream and cook for 15 minutes more.
Add 2 Tbsp of cold water to the cornstarch and mix to combine. Pour into chowder and stir until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with a bit of fresh parsley and a handful of oyster crackers before serving.
*If fresh clams are not available, substitute 2 (10 oz) cans of chopped clams and 2 (14 oz) bottles of clam juice or broth.