Back a few weeks ago, we (in New England) got to enjoy some early spring weather. We had a weekend of 70 degree weather which is uncommon in March. As we were enjoying drinks by the fireplace, I said to Jeff that I would love to make some clam chowder.
Clam chowder is one of those recipes that Jeff and I haven't made. It could be because we have gone to area restaurants and have enjoyed a great cup or bowl of New England clam chowdah, why would we need to compete?
Just think, we have made 300+ recipes over the past 2-1/2 years. We are always in search of trying something new and interesting but clam chowder just wasn't on the list. Jeff found a great recipe in one of our favorite cookbook from Thomas Keller, ad hoc at home. This was a three part recipe where you create your broth, your potatoes and clams in separate capacities. The broth includes leeks, onions, garlic, milk and heavy cream. The potatoes are cooked with a sachet of peppercorns, thyme and garlic. The clams are cooked in white, shallots and thyme. The combination together was amazing, add bacon bits and chives as a topper, it was perfect. The flavor was rich, creamy and delicious. It reminded me of summer which made it a perfect dish with the warm weather.
Now that we have made our own clam chowder, it's going to be hard to order the same dish at our favorite restaurants, but that's ok...we have a great recipe as a back-up.
(Adapted from ad hoc at home, Clam Chowder with Bacon)
8 ounces of Applewood or thick wood smoked bacon
2 cups of coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
2 cups of coarsely chopped onions
5 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of flour
3 cups of whole milk
3 cups of heavy cream
3 tablespoons of finely chopped chives
2 pounds of yukon gold potatoes, diced to 1/2"
1 cloth sachet of 10 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 2 thyme sprigs, and 1 smashed garlic clove
4 pounds Littleneck or Manila clams
1-1/4 cup of kosher salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup of chopped shallots
2 thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of dry white wine
Heat some olive oil in an 8 to 10 quart stockpot over medium heat.
Add the bacon, reduce the heat to low, and let the fat render for 20 to 25 minutes,
stirring from time to time; the bacon should color but not crisp.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan.
Add the garlic, onion, and leeks to the pan and stir to coat with bacon fat.
After leeks are coated with oil, sprinkle with salt, cover with parchment paper
and cook very slowly for 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Remove and discard lid. Watch the video for paper cover. (see bottom of article)
Put the potatoes, sachet, and 2 tsp salt in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover,
bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.
Drain and spread on a tray to cool; discard the sachet.
When the vegetables are tender, increase the heat to medium and add the butter.
Once the butter has melted, stir in the flour to coat the vegetables and
cook for 2-3 minutes to take away the raw flour taste.
Whisk in the milk and cream, season to taste with salt and pepper,
and bring to a very low simmer.
To clean clams, put the clams in a large clean bowl. Mix 8 cups of cold water
with the 1-1/2 cups of salt. Stir until mostly dissolved. Pour enough water over
the clams to slightly cover. Allow them to sit for 5 minutes to purge them of sand.
Repeat. Drain the clams and rinse under cold water.
Melt the 2 Tbsp butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Add the shallots and thyme sprigs, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring,
for about 1 minute, until the shallots are tender. Add the wine, bring to a boil,
and cook for 2 minutes to evaporate some of the alcohol.
Add the clams, cover the pan, and cook for about 4 minutes, removing the clams
as they open. Strain all the clam liquid through a fine-mesh conical strainer into a bowl.
Shell the clams and set aside.
Gently stir clam liquid to taste into the soup (avoid any sand that may have
settled in the bottom of the bowl.) Season the chowder with salt and pepper to taste.
Loosely chop the clams and gently stir them in with the potatoes.
Spread the bacon in a small frying pan and crisp over medium-high heat.
Garnish the soup with the bacon and the chives.