There are endless variations of New England chowders, some that use only clams and others that rely on a wide variety of fish and shellfish. You can add lobster, mussels, or other firm fish, depending on where you live and what you have access to.
RECIPE: Kathy’s Homemade Fish Stock
You can open your clams at home or you can ask your fishmonger to open them. If you opt for the latter, be sure to have him or her save all the clam juice. Don’t open the clams more than a few hours ahead of time. You can also steam the clams over high heat with 1/4 cup [60 ml] water until they just begin to open and then strain the juice so that no sand or grit goes into the chowder.
You’ll need a total of 4 cups [960 ml] of dairy. But you can play with the proportions of milk—and whether you use low-fat or whole milk—and cream, depending on how rich you like your chowder.
Excerpted from Soup Swap by Kathy Gunst, Published by Chronicle Books LLC. Text ©2016 by Kathy Gunst. Photographs by Yvonne Duivenvoorden, ©2016 by Chronicle Books LLC.
- 6 strips country-style or thick-cut bacon or 1/2 cup [150 g] finely chopped salt pork (optional)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1-1/2 tablespoons if not using bacon
- 2 medium onions finely chopped
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried, crumbled
- 2 pounds [910 g] potatoes such as Yukon gold peeled and cut into 1/2-in [12‑mm] cubes
- 2 cups [480 ml] low-fat or whole milk
- 2 cups [480 ml] heavy cream
- 2 pounds [910 g] haddock or other firm-flesh fish cut into 1-in [2.5-cm] cubes
- 3 pounds [1.4 kg] clams (cherrystone, littleneck, steamer, or Mahogany) opened raw and coarsely chopped, plus 1 cup [240 ml] clam juice (the juice is released when the clams are opened) or bottled clam juice or Fish Stock (see headnote for recipe link)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups [360 ml] fish stock (see headnote for recipe link)
- 1/2 cup [30 g] packed finely chopped fresh parsley
- small pinch cayenne pepper plus more as needed
- In a large stockpot over low heat, cook the bacon (if using) until crisp on both sides. Using tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain. Crumble the bacon into small pieces or, if you prefer, cut it into slightly larger pieces and set aside. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pot.
- Add the olive oil to the stockpot and warm over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes, or until the onions are soft and just beginning to turn color. Add just a pinch of salt (clams are very briny, i.e., salty) and pepper and half of the thyme, and stir well. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until the potatoes are thoroughly coated with the herbs and onions.
- Meanwhile, in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk and cream to a very gentle simmer.
- Add the haddock and clams to the vegetables and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the flour. Cook, stirring the flour into the fish and vegetables, for about 1 minute. Turn the heat to medium-low. Add the clam juice and fish stock, stir well, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add half of the bacon and the remaining thyme and bring to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat to low and add half of the parsley and the cayenne. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
- Stir the warm milk mixture into the chowder. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, and cayenne if needed, and cook another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the soup is quite hot.
- Ladle the chowder into mugs or bowls and top with a sprinkling of the remaining parsley and some of the remaining bacon. Serve with the biscuits alongside.
TO GO: After adding the clam juice and fish stock, remove the soup from the heat. Add the warm milk and cream to the chowder off the heat. Pack the parsley and the bacon separately. At the party, gently reheat the chowder over low heat, being careful not to overcook the clams. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and sprinkle with remaining bacon and parsley before serving.
Cynthia Fleming says
Awesome recipe! Real New England Chowdah!! Made it tonight and loved it!!