Cape Cod Clam Chowder

I was wandering the fresh fish aisle of my favorite Japanese market, contemplating what to buy for a sushi dinner, when some particularly beautiful clams caught my eye.

Manila clams

I love clams. My family does not. My kids mistrust small chewy dark things, and my wife is generally squeamish about bivalves. I would steam them with wine and olive oil and herbs and eat them with some crusty bread. But if I want everyone in the house to enjoy them, I make clam chowder. The family gets a lovely clam flavor-infused soup, and I get all the clams.

There’s nothing like clam chowder made with good, fresh ingredients and live clams in the shell. Don’t get me wrong — I like the gummy white stuff you get in places like San Francisco (served in a hollowed out sourdough for dramatic effect.) And if you’re in a pinch, this recipe will work well with a can of minced clams, too. But if you can, find yourself some fresh clams. It’s well worth the effort. (Asian markets are always a good bet.)

I have no idea if this is how they do clam chowder in Cape Cod — but it sounds nice, doesn’t it? It’s the way I would do clam chowder if I was in Cape Cod. I like to picture myself walking along a windy New England beach, wiggling my toes into the sand at the surf’s edge and feeling a clam wriggling around under there. Anyway…

*   *   *

Cape Cod Clam Chowder
(serve with a hoppy pale ale, some crusty sourdough and good butter)

1 lb fresh live clams in the shell (smaller, such as Manilla)
1 quart chicken stock
3 medium/large russet potatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 slice bacon, finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. butter
salt & pepper to taste

Peel two potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Render bacon in a large saucepan over medium heatuntil crisp, and remove. Cook onions in rendered bacon fat until soft, and add potatoes. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add stock and cook 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool.

When soup has cooled, puree in a blender until smooth. Return to saucepan and add last potato, unpeeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat over medium until soup begins to simmer. Add clams and cream, cover and turn off heat. Clams will open within 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, either remove clam meat from shells and discard shells. Or serve clams in their shells in the soup, if you think your guests would like scooping clams from their shells.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Gaskin
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 01:53:06

    whoa…cream and bacon…downright decadent


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