There are a few schools when it comes to the proper chowder. The classic New England is chock full of potatoes and sometimes leeks settled into creamy bed of aromatic glory. Manhattan clam chowder (dubbed by James Beard as an ‘abomination’) has its loyal fans clamoring for the tangy tomato base that offsets the briny clams. For the Rhode Island purists, it is a brothy bowl of tender quahogs and herbs. This recipe takes the New England version, but leans toward Rhode Island with a lighter, thinner consistency that is satisfying even in the middle of summer.
30 ea topneck clams, scrubbed well (or one 8oz container of minced clams plus 16 oz clam juice
4-5 oz salt pork, diced
1 leek, whites sliced and rinsed
2 shallots, small diced
2 small yellow potatoes, diced
¼ c unsalted butter
¼ c all-purpose flour
1 c dry sherry
1 qt Half & Half
2T fresh Thyme plus 3 whole sprigs
2T minced chives
Salt and cracked clack pepper
(If using chopped clams, skip this step) Steam the washed topnecks in about an inch of water until just opened. As they open, transfer one by one to a bowl in order to cool. Strain the leftover broth and set aside (it should be about 2 cups of liquid). Remove the cooled meat from the shells and cut into ½ inch pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and store them in the fridge until needed.
In a heavy bottomed pot, render the salt pork over a medium-low heat. Once the fat is translucent, add the rinsed leeks and shallots and allowing them to soften. Add in the potatoes, coating them in the vegetables and pork fat, and turn the heat to medium low.
While the potatoes warm up, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the flour, making sure no lumps form. Let the mixture bubble, but not burn. Remove from heat and set aside. This step should take about 3-4 minutes.
Returning to the pot, add in the sherry and let it reduce by a half. Add the clam juice and the whole springs of thyme and allow it to simmer.
Once the potatoes are soft/ at the desired texture, remove the thyme sprigs and add the cream. Bring to just under a summer and slowly add on the butter and flour mixture (roux) to the pot until desired thickness is reached. Add in the clams and bring to just under a simmer again. Taste and season the soup with cayenne, black pepper and salt. Stir in the herbs and remove from heat.
Serve with oyster crackers, or better yet, some grilled crusty bread!
Enjoy and #eatmoreclams