New England Clam Chowder
This New England Clam Chowder is made with fresh clams, smoky bacon, russet potatoes, and cream. A delicious soup to have for dinner with a crusty loaf of bread.
[Updated from the archives with new photos, writing, and a video. Originally posted May 2011]
New England Clam Chowder is my brother Andrew’s favorite soup in the whole world, so it’s something that was around a lot when we were growing up. It was canned clam chowder most of the time, but when we went out to the city, he’d go to his favorite spots to get Clam Chowder in bread bowls.
Have you seen the bread bowls before? It’s literally a big boule that’s hollowed out and filled with soup, and when you’re done with the soup, you eat the soup-soaked bread. I admit that it’s pretty glorious, if you have the calories for it 😉
Bread bowl clam chowder tends to be on the thicker side, probably so the bread doesn’t get too soggy, but my favorite New England style clam chowder isn’t flour-thickened at all. That’s how this version I’m sharing with you today is.
While the chowder is thin, what you lose in thickness you gain in flavor. Without the flour in the chowder, you can really taste the clams and seafood flavor SO much better. And since we’re splurging on the fresh clams, that’s what we want. Let’s get started!
The reason I like using fresh clams is because I haven’t found a brand of canned clams that I like. If you think you’ve found one that rocks, I’d love to know about it in the comments section below, but for now, start with fresh littleneck clams.
After they’ve had a short soak in some water, cook the clams in white wine until they open:
Since the clams I had were still a little dirty after the soak, I discarded the cooking liquid, but in an ideal scenario you keep the released juices and wine. This is a judgment call. If the liquid doesn’t look muddy or sandy, it’s worth keeping!
Remove the clam meat from the shells:
Then cook a few strips of bacon in the same pot:
When the bacon is crispy, remove it and add chopped yellow onion to the bacon fat:
Cook until soft, then add two bottles of clam juice and a little water:
Add cubed russet potato:
Simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes soften, then stir in the clam meat and crumbled bacon:
Add heavy cream and a little cayenne pepper, as the final touches:
Now you’re ready to enjoy!
New England Clam Chowder
- 2 dozen littleneck clams
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- two 8-ounce bottles clam juice
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups chopped yellow onion
- 4 oz bacon
- 1 russet potato cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- Soak the littleneck clams in cold water for 30 minutes so they spit out any sand they may have inside. Drain, and scrub the clams well.
- In a large soup pot over high heat, combine the clams and the wine. Cover and cook until the clams open, which should only take 4-5 minutes. If any refuse to open, cook them for a minute or two longer (sometimes they are just stubborn), but if they don’t open after that, throw them away. Remove the clams from the liquid. If the water looks muddy or dark, discard the liquid. Otherwise, you can incorporate it into your soup, but make sure to strain the liquid through a cheesecloth or paper towel-lined sieve to remove any sand that was released.
- Clean the pot out and add the bacon. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat to crisp up the bacon, then remove the bacon strips from the pan. Add the onion to the bacon fat and cook for 10 minutes until softened, and in the meantime, remove the clam meat from the shells and crumble the bacon.
- Add the clam juice and water to the pot, and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the potatoes for 10-15 minutes (uncovered) until almost cooked through. Add the chopped clams, bacon, as well as the cream. Add the pinch of cayenne, and season the liquid to taste with salt and pepper. It’s now ready to enjoy!