3-2: New England Clam Chowder

3-2: New England Clam Chowder is one of two recipes that I cooked and photographed before I took an extended break from cooking for this project. Therefore, my memories of the process of this dish may be a little fuzzy, but I think I’ll make some sense of it.

Clam chowder is something that I’ve loved since I was a kid. My husband is from New England and when we go back to visit, it’s always an anticipated treat. We made a pretty decent clam chowder in the restaurant I worked at, too, and this recipe comes pretty close.

Of course, it’s mandatory that it be referred to as chowdah–say it right!

I doubt my mom would have made this one–I don’t even think she likes clam chowder. If I had asked for clam chowder as a kid, she would have handed me a can.

Ingredients. My parsley isn’t super-old/back from the future, these pictures are from last October. 🙁 The recipe card pics show them using red potatoes, but we used Russet in the restaurant and it seemed to be fine. Plus, I just personally prefer Russets more. I suppose reds would give you a firmer potato in the final product which could be a positive, but I’m okay with them being a tad mushy for this kind of chowdah.

You’ve diced one onion (or probably thousands at this point), you’ve diced them all.

Taters. Either peel over the trash can, or peel into the sink WITH a paper towel covering the bottom so that you can get rid of the peels easily and NOT wash them down the disposal. Garbage disposals and potato peels are mortal enemies, and I learned that one the hard way a few years ago.

I do love a good dice. Not exactly uniform, but good enough. Always do your mise en place first, things go quickly once you start adding ingredients into the pot. Not a good idea to be peeling/dicing while you’ve got a roux cooking that you should be watching.

Dicing bacon. Looking at this picture now, I’d probably use my big chef’s knife rather than that slicer. That’s just a personal preference thing, though, I use different knives for all sorts of things when a lot of people can get by with just one or two.

Comes out the same in the end, so ignore my knife comments unless you’re ending up with HUGE pieces or tiny microscopic ones. Then perhaps consider a different knife/strategy. 😉

Taters and onions into the pot, with the bacon fat. Any other instance I would have drained off that fat and kept it in a jar in my fridge. Bacon fat is great for making confit, which I find myself doing a lot with onions, mushrooms, and/or peppers lately. Helps to already have fat ready to go–this goes for chicken or any other animal fats you end up with. Don’t just wash it down the drain or throw it away!

Adding in the clam juice–we never used clam juice in the restaurant when we made chowdah, but we did use clam base. I’ve never used it outside of there or even really seen it in a lot of markets, but here’s an Amazon link to some–you know, if you’re doing a lot of clam-based dishes or something and are opposed to the juice. 😉

Always have multiple measuring cups–it helps when you make a lot of things at once and some are in the dishwasher/dirty. If I were to make this again, I’d probably use heavy cream for the whole thing instead of half-and-half in the first part and whipping cream in the second, but that’s a personal preference towards that extra creamy texture and round flavor. The way they lay it out works just fine–I just can’t help mucking about with things.

Adding in the clams. Definitely don’t do this until the end–-no one likes a tough, rubbery clam. I have to cringe a bit at the sidebar tip of making the chowdah in the microwave–I wouldn’t do it. This is an EASY recipe, and the most challenging part is doing the mise, which you’d have to do whether you cooked it on the stove or in the microwave anyway.

The microwave is a great invention, but it can screw a LOT of things up too. I have a feeling that despite what the gurus at Simply Delicious believed back in the 1980s (when microwaves could do no wrong), this isn’t something you should make in there.

Final product, plated as we did at the restaurant, which is exactly how they suggest here too. I ate it up as soon as I took the picture, and I remember it being quite tasty. 🙂

And of course, let’s be real: this isn’t going to be EXACTLY as you’d find in New England, or even as good as the one in the restaurant (no mirepoix?), but for a home cook who’s not a fanatic, it’s totally doable.

Grade: A-