New England Clam Chowder

farmshare-chef-steamed-clams-new-england-clam-chowderI have lived in Boston for nearly 10 years now, and just like Lobster Rolls in the summer, this is one of those dishes that makes me love living in a place with truly distinct regional cuisine. New England Clam Chowder is particularly heart-warming on cold winter days, like today.  Chowder purists – of which there are many in these parts – may take offense to my addition of shrimp but to be honest I didn’t want to spend $30 on clams – so I used fewer clams and substituted some chopped shrimp for seafood flavor and texture. I took cues from a few different recipes, some used wine, others chose salt pork over bacon, and some used multiple types of potatoes.  This recipe makes the best use of what I had from my share as well as what I had on hand in my kitchen. If you’re calling me a heretic for the addition of shrimp and fennel, I feel you; I have those same strong feelings about chiles rellenos. For a really traditional chowder, skip the shrimp, substitute more onion for fennel, and double the amount of clams by weight, while keeping everything else the same. However, as a New England Clam Chowder lover I am a fan of this recipe – it’s not super thick, it is slightly unorthodox, but it is very, very tasty. Pass me a spoon and a Guinness and I will make it though the winter just fine.

First step is to make a broth and cook the clams.  This is the broth that will later be added with the pork and potatoes and will be the important flavor center of your chowder.  This picture shows everything you will need for the clam base.

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I am using 1 cup of white wine with 3 cups of water and a lot of vegetables to make a very flavorful base. I also wanted to add the shrimp tails from the shrimp that I am using in the chowder. Ideally I would want shrimp that hadn’t already been peeled so that I could use the whole peel, not just the tail in the stock – but these are the shrimp I had. I used just the tops of a fennel bulb for the broth, and then part of the fennel bulb in the chowder.

Make sure you have a sauce pot with a good fitting lid, and that is at least 3 quarts capacity. Combine all of the vegetables, wine, water, herbs, and shrimp skins then bring to a boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and let it go for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, increase the heat so the broth is at a steady simmer but not a full boil. Add all of the clams and cover.  Allow to cook for 8 minutes. After this time remove the cover, and the clams should all be opened.

farmshare-chef-steamed-clams-new-england-clam-chowderRemove the opened clams and place them in a bowl. If there are any unopened clams, replace the lid and return the pot to the burner. Allow to cook covered for 3 – 5 more minutes. If the unopened clams remain closed, discard them. Strain the liquid into a container – there should be about 1 quart of broth – and press down on the vegetables to release any excess liquid. Make sure no little clams are mixed in with your veggies before you discard them. Pick the cooked clams out of the shells and set aside – add any left over clam liquid to the strained broth. Chop the clams up into small pieces.  If you see any bits of mealy brown waste-like matter, discard it.

While the broth is simmering you can get the rest of the chowder ingredients ready – peel and dice potatoes, finely diced salt pork, shrimp, onion, and fennel. Also, measure out the flour and butter.

farmshare-chef-mis-new-england-clam-chowderI used an enameled cast iron pot, but any good soup pot will work. Start by cooking your salt pork over medium-high heat to render out the fat and brown the bits of pork. Once the pork is well browned, you want about 2 tablespoons of fat left over – if there is much more, remove some excess fat until there is around 2 tablespoons is left.

farmshare-chef-browning-saltpork-newengland-clam-chowderAdd the butter along with the onions, fennel, and thyme.  Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

farmshare-chef-cooking-aromatics-newengland-clam-chowderOnce the vegetables have cooked, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute while stirring then slowly whisk the clam base into the vegetable/flour mixture. Pour in all but the last 1/4 cup of clam base – you will be able to see some sand and sediment that will remain at the bottom of the liquid.

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Add the chopped potatoes and bring to a steady simmer. Allow to cook for 20 – 25 minutes, until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart. During this cooking time stir periodically and skim any scum or foam that comes to the surface. Once the potatoes have cooked, remove the thyme sprigs (which I forgot to do, you can see in the picture) and add the heavy cream. Simmer for another 5 minutes then add the chopped shrimp and clams. Allow to cook a few more minutes until the shrimp are pink and opaque. Taste it and add black pepper and salt if necessary. I added about a teaspoon of salt to mine – salt will vary depending on how much salt you get from your pork.  Serve hot with saltines or oyster crackers – eat within a couple days.

farmshare-chef-new-england-clam-chowder-finished

New England Clam Chowder

Serves 6
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 15 minutes

Ingredients

Clam Base

  • 1 cup White Wine
  • 3 cups Water
  • 2 medium Carrots (medium dice)
  • 1/2 large Yellow Onion (medium dice)
  • 1 large Fennel bulb (stems only, rough chop)
  • 5oz Shrimp (no meat - tails, and peels only)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 3 sprigs Thyme
  • 2lb LIttle Neck Clams

Chowder

  • 3oz Salt Pork (small dice)
  • 1/2 large Yellow Onion (small dice)
  • 1/2 large Fennel Bulb (small dice)
  • 2 sprigs Thyme (whole)
  • 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 cup Flour
  • 4 cups Clam Base
  • 3lb Yukon Potatoes (or similar) (1)
  • 1 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 5oz Shrimp (very finely chopped)
  • All Reserved Clam (finely chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Directions

Clam Base
Step 1
If necessary rinse clams with cool water in a colander, discard any clams that are open and will not close when pinched.

In a 3 Quart sauce pot, with a good fitting lid combine all Clam Base ingredients, except the clams. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Allow broth to continue on a very low simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes return broth to a slow boil, then add all of the clams. Cover pot and allow clams to cook until they open, about 8 minutes. If any clams do not open, remove the clams that have opened and return the pot to the heat, covered, for a few more minutes. If the remaining clams still have not opened discard them.
Step 2
Using tongs remove opened clams from stock pot and place in a bowl. Strain the broth into a quart container and set aside. Discard vegetables, and other items in the strainer. Remove clams from shells and discard shells. Chop the clams finely, discard any brown waste matter. Set clams aside until later use.
Chowder
Step 3
Heat a 3 quart sauce pan or enameled cast iron pot over medium heat. Add the salt pork and cook until the fat is rendered and the pork is brown and crisp. There should be about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot, if more than that remove some of the fat so that there is about 2 tablespoons left in the pot
Step 4
Add the butter, onion, fennel, and thyme and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir to combine with the vegetables. Allow flour to cook for 1 minute, stirring. Slowly whisk the clam base into the flour/vegetable mixture and allow to come to a steady simmer.
Step 5
Add the diced potatoes and cook at a steady simmer until the potatoes are soft, but not falling apart - about 20 to 25 minutes. During this time skim any foam or scum that rises to the surface and remove the thyme sprigs.
Step 6
Once the potatoes are cooked, add the heavy cream and allow to simmer for an additional 5 minutes, skimming as necessary. Add the diced shrimp and reserved clams and cook until the shrimp is pink/opaque - about 3 minutes. Add pepper and salt if needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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