We have fond memories of the food we enjoyed when in New England: local oysters, lobster, Boston cream pie and of course clam chowder. Ah, yes, fond memories indeed.
Since then, clam chowder has become one of our favourite starters. Unfortunately, most restaurants (even in New England!) turn the clam chowder into a potato soup and even worse: they used canned clams. Help!
The main ingredients of New England clam chowder should of course be lots of fresh clams plus vegetables, bacon, cream and potato. The soup must be about clams, with all the other ingredients in a supporting role.
We’re not from New England, so our clam chowder is far from original. But being Dutch we love our seafood and most certainly do we love our kokkels, also known as the common cockle. You can find a probably more original Manhatten version (meaning: without cream) in The Silver Palate Cookbook.
Finding the right potato is a bit of a struggle, also because some recipes suggest using waxy potatoes, so potatoes that remain firm. Not a good idea because it means that the potato doesn’t thicken the soup and the potato is far too present. We prefer using a starchy potato, one you would use for a purée, mash or mousseline. If you can find one with a golden colour, that’s even better. If you’re familiar with vichyssoise, then use the same potato.
What You Need
- 500 grams of Clams, preferably washed
- Chopped Carrot, Celeriac, Onion and Leek
- Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, some Thyme)
- 4 strips of Bacon
- White Wine
- 200 grams of Starchy Potato
- 50 ml Cream
- Olive Oil
- White pepper
What You Do
Check the clams: discard broken ones or ones that will not close. Add a little olive oil to a pan and then chopped carrot, celeriac, onion and leek. Leave for 20 minutes until soft and sweet. Add the chopped bacon, fry for a few minutes until slightly crispy. Now add white wine, water and the bouquet garni. Leave for another 20 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the clams quickly and certainly not too long. If you heat them too long, then they will become rubbery when heated for the second time. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ingredients from the stock. Keep the bacon, the clams (without the shells) and the bouquet garni. Discard all other ingredients: onions, leek, celeriac, carrot and shells. Transfer the bacon and the bouquet garni back to the liquid. Add the chopped potato. Let simmer until the potato has broken down. Use a fork to thicken the soup. Add cream. Feel free to add a bit more, it’s all about taste and consistency at this stage. If you’re not happy with it, then you could add some potato starch. Keep the soup warm for 10 minutes or so, turn up the heat, add the clams and quickly heat them. Add some freshly grounded white pepper. Serve immediately.