Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

I have been searching for a good clam chowder recips for some time now.  There is nothing better than a hot bowl of flavorful clam chowder, thick and rich and still showcasing the delicate clam flavor.  Oddly, duplicating restaurant quality chowder has proven to be quite challenging!  I originally tried thickening the chowder with flour, which gave it a texture I was not thrilled with. And in spite of most recipes calling for canned clams, I just have not found a brand I can get locally that I like. Since I can always get fresh clams at the local Asian market, this was the least of my worries. After getting a mean craving yesterday for a bowl of chowder, I renewed my search for recipes, and found one that thickened the soup base with potatoes instead of flour. I immediately wanted to try it! l stopped at the store at luncn and picked up everything I need, and made the recipe that night.  SCORE.  This is my favorite chowder recipe yet.  The texture is perfect, the clams taste fresh and aren't overcooked and rubbery, and the potatoes are soft and make the soup hearty without turning it into potato soup. The only thing that would make this better is using a strip of bacon along with the salt pork, and serving it in a sourdough breadbowl. Ooooh, I have leftovers!!! ;) 

Clam Chowder

Ingredients
4 oz salt pork or bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 stalks celery, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup water or clam juice
2 1/2 pounds live cherrystone or littleneck clams
2 cups whole milk
2 medium russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
 
Combine salt pork and 1/4 cup water in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven. over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and pork has begun to brown and crisp in spots, about 8 minutes. Add butter, onion, and celery. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened but not browned, about 4 minutes longer. Add clam juice or water and stir to combine.
 
Add clams and increase heat to high. Cover and cook, opening lid to stir occasionally, until clams begin to open, about 3 minutes. As clams open, remove them with tongs and transfer to a large bowl, keeping as many juices in the pot as possible and keeping the lid shut as much as possible. After 8 minutes, discard any clams that have not yet begun to open.
 
Add milk, potatoes, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and starting to break down, about 15 minutes.
 
Meanwhile, remove meat from inside the clams and roughly chop it. Discard empty shells. Transfer chopped clams and as much juice as possible to a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Let clams drain, then transfer chopped clams to a separate bowl. 
 
Once potatoes are tender, use a spider or slotted spoon to remove most of them (along with the celery and salt pork) and place them in a bowl.  Discard the bay leaves. Use an immersion blender to blend the liquid in the pan, along with some of the potatoes left behind, until the liquid is smooth and emulsified, and thickened, about 2 minutes. If a thicker base is desired, add more potatoes and blend them in with the immersion blender. Return strained potatoes to the liquid, add heavy cream and stir to combine. Reheat until simmering. Add chopped clams. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with oyster crackers.

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