08 April 2010

Cape Cod clam chowder

I spent the bulk of my first 18 years of life roughly 750 miles from the coast.  Most of the sea critters that I ate in that time were of the un-fresh and over-cooked variety.  Until I caught my own fish (at around age 14), I was quite certain that fish had to have that awful fishy flavour associated with old fish.  (Isn't it interesting that the word "fishy" is associated with old fish?  How come the word "beefy" isn't associated with rotten beef?)  I knew that I didn't like fish.  Turns out I was wrong.  I still don't like old, unfresh, overcooked fish.

Well, seafood soups were something I came to late.  But holy crap are they all kinds of awesomeness.  And until this past weekend, I had never made a clam chowder.  I decided to remedy that.  I purchased 5 pounds of cherrystone clams from my local Asian grocer, in southern California, to make a modification of this Cape Cod chowder.  Yum.


The modifications:
5 pounds cherrystone clams
1 cup water
2 ounces meaty salt pork, cut into small (1/3-inch) dice
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon)
1 large dried bay leaf
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch dice
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
salt if needed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
First, clams that are open pre-cooking are dead.  Chuck 'em.  Rinse the clams.  Place in a heavy pot with the water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  As soon as they start to boil, start a timer for 5 minutes.  At the end of 5 minutes, move the clams around a bit, cover the pot and boil for 5 more minutes (you may even want to do this several times over the total 10 minute cooking time, as my clams were a tad unevenly cooked - some were perfect, some were a tad overcooked).  Uncover, and remove from heat.

Cooked clams

Remove the meat from the clams, and put it in a bowl.


Cover, and put in the fridge to chill.  Meanwhile, pour off the broth in the pot, being careful to leave any grit in the pot.  You'll want to recover most of the broth (2ish cups).

Clam broth

Reserve the broth.  Meanwhile, chop up the salt pork (some suggest removing the rind, but why?  It's delicious pig skin.  Yummy, yummy pig skin).  Brown the salt pork over medium heat.

Salt pork

Once browned, add the butter.


Melt the butter. Sauté the onions, garlic, thyme and celery until soft.


Add the bay leaf, the potatoes and the broth.  Bring to a boil, and continue to boil lightly, until the potatoes have softened enough that you can crush them on the side of the pot with a spoon.


While the soup is boiling, chop the clams into nice bite-sized pieces (note the relative term here - Mrs. Dude likes them smaller than me).

Clam meat

When the potatoes are done, and are smashed to your liking, turn off the heat.  Pour in the cream and drop in the clam bits.  (You may heat on low at this point, but don't boil - you don't want to cook the clams, just warm them a bit).

Season with pepper (salt wasn't needed - the clams and salt pork bring in a ton), and sprinkle on some parsley.


This soup is the best.  Rich.  Hearty.  Salty.  And full of crazy good flavour.  Love it.  Serve with a nice, hearty bread and a slightly sweet white wine.

Served with

1 comment:

The Powers That Be said...

Finally! Someone who understands the New England version of clam chowder isn't supposed to be some sort of goopy, drippy, white stuff you could hang wallpaper with!

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