Family legend says that when I was a toddler, my parents and I went up to Nova Scotia. While there, I took a serious liking to clam chowder. Apparently, I ate it at every meal for the remainder of our time there. It has been my favorite ever since.
I do not hold any love for its traitorous, not at all tasty cousin, Manhattan Clam Chowder. It doesn’t deserve the name. There have been some times that I have been fooled. I would order what was clearly labeled as “Clam Chowder” and would be given a bowl on tomato-nonsense. Now I specify that it should be New England.
My very favorite clam chowder comes from Captain Jack, in Kennebunkport, ME. But as I am not often up quite so far north, I’ve learned to keep my pantry well-stocked so I can have chowder anytime I like.
I’ve borrowed this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa. As I don’t have access to fresh clams and fresh clam juice as easily as she does, I make do with canned and bottled. I get very nice canned clams from Trader Joe’s. I give them a rough chop and in they go. The chowder doesn’t make use of cream or other heavy dairy products to make it thick and creamy. So it could almost be considered healthy….either way, I’d eat it all the time!
You begin by chopping up your vegetables and cooking them in the clam juice. This really infuses the clam-flavor throughout the dish.
The slightly fussy bit comes next. You have to dirty a second pot. In it, you melt the butter and incorporate the flour. You take several scoops of the clam cooking juice and add it to the flour mixture. Finally, you add the milk (skim in my case) very slowly, whisking like mad. Add the white sauce to the vegetables. Throw in the clams and you are ready to serve. It is very easy and as good as any you will find in Maine!
New England Clam Chowder
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa
8 tbsp butter
2 onions, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
8 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 c clam juice, fresh or bottled
1/2 c flour
2 c milk
12 oz cooked clams, chopped
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large pot. Add chopped onions and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add remaining vegetables, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook for an additional 10 min. Add clam juice. Bring pot up to a boil and simmer about 20 min or until vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 6 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook over low heat for 2-3 min. Add 1 c of vegetable clam broth to small saucepan and whisk vigorously. Add milk and continue whisking until smooth and thickened slightly.
Add mixture to cooked vegetables. Stir in chopped clams and gently warm. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crackers or biscuits.