January 24th, 2011, 08:05 PM
New England Clam Chowder
OK, this is real chowder. Not the stuff you get out of a can, or in a restaurant. It may not be for the faint of heart...
One dozen large hard shelled clams (littlenecks or quohaugs are best). Do NOT use canned clams. Ever. NeverNeverNever.They just don't cut it.
Half of a rib of celery minced fine
3 tablespoons fresh onion. minced fine
3 strips bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces. Purists use salt pork, but I can use the rest of the bacon for other things. What do you do with a chunk of salt pork???
4 medium red potatoes, pealed and cut into half inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream (milk will do, but you will have to make a roux to thicken the chowder)
A pinch of Thyme
Ground Black Pepper
Scrub the clams well. I use a scrubber-sponge. No need to soak them, they are not like steamer (soft-shelled) clams. They don't get mud inside of them.
Put them in a large covered pot with about a half of an inch of water. Put them over high heat until the water boils, turn to medium until all of the clams have opened.
Put the whole pot in the fridge. You can leave them there overnight, but don't go much longer.
Once the clams are cool enough to handle, pull them out of their shells. Be careful to do this over the pot, you don't want to lose any of the juice.
OK, hear is the tricky part... The clams have a few "firm" parts. The abductor muscles (they look like little scallops), the "neck" which is about 1/4 inch long, and has kind of a blackish color, and part of the main body of the clam, which looks like a little flap attached to the main body. Peel off the abductor muscles along with the neck. Use a very sharp paring knife to cut away the flap. Try not to get to close in, if you do you will have some of the "gross parts" of the clam, which we will use, but we don't want chunks of it in the chowder.
Strain the juice just to make sure you get any grit and shell particles. I use a few layers of cheesecloth.
OK, here is the gross part...
Take the remains of the clams (the gross parts) and put them in the clam juice.
If you have a wand mixer, blend the juice and the gross parts until completely liquid. I am sure a blender or food processor will work also.
Chop the firm parts of the clam into 1/4 inch pieces.
Get the potatoes boiling, and start frying the bacon pieces in a 4 quart stock pot. You want them all crisp and brown.
Strain as much of the fat out of the bacon as you can, and add the onions and celery to it. Stir constantly until the celery and onions are soft.
Add the "Clam Puree" along with another half cup of water.
Add the clam pieces.
Once the potatoes are done, strain and add to the mixture.
Slowly add the cream, stirring constantly.
Gently heat it, you don't want to burn the cream.
Add the potatoes and the thyme.
Turn off the heat.
It is best if you let it sit in the fridge overnight, but it will be tasty right away.
Add pepper to taste.