Something about constant cold weather makes me want soup all the time. It's warming, comforting and good for you to boot. Especially when you can use homemade broths. The girls and I prefer Manhattan style clam chowder most of the time. It's what I grew up with. But my darling husband really prefers New England style clam chowder. So, every so often I'll make up a batch of that for him. Judging from the vocalizations and slurping I hear coming from the table right now, this batch turned out really well. The first time I made New England clam chowder, I looked up dozens of recipes and tried to create something that had the elements my hubby prefers. Chunky potatoes, little celery if any, good clammy flavor, and not too terribly thick. Thickness of chowder is a very personal preference. I grew up loving it quite thick but now I think I like it just nice and creamy. More of a soup and less of a stew. We also love bacon in our chowder, but have found that you can keep it reserved to add after serving if you have a vegetarian in the family and the soup will still taste good. I usually add a bit of butter to make up for the lost bacon grease. Gives it more flavor. So here is my take on New England style clam chowder. If I still lived on the coast, I would use fresh clams when possible, but for everyday and out of season I have found a brand of canned clams that I really like. It is therefore twice the cost of the standard brand of clams and clam juice. Oh well. I stock up when they run it on special. The cream makes this a nicely filling and immensely satisfying soup, so go easy. You can always go back for seconds. ☺
New England Clam Chowder
4 (6.5 oz.) cans chopped clams, undrained (Bar Harbor is a brand I have found to be more tender and less gritty than others available.)
2 (8 oz.) bottles clam juice + 2½ c water (or fish stock if you have it - I happened to have some in the freezer that I used in this batch.)
6-8 slices thick, good bacon, chopped (Hempler's, if you can get it, is exceptional bacon.)
1 tbsp butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 tsp minced garlic, optional
3 tbsp flour
4 medium yellow potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp dried thyme (a sprig of lemon thyme is fabulous if you have it.)
~1 tsp sea salt or to taste
¼ tsp white pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 cup heavy cream
3 shots tabasco sauce
fresh gound pepper to taste
Fry bacon in stock pot over medium low heat until crisp, but not crunchy. (I like to use kitchen scissors to snip it right into the pot.) Remove and set aside in a bowl. Feel free to add an extra slice or two to deal with passersby snitching pieces to snack on. (Who me? Blink blink...) Keep about 1 tbsp bacon grease in the pot.
Add the tbsp of butter and saute the onion, celery and optional garlic until softened. (I don't often use anything but fresh anymore, but the jarred minced garlic is good in this case as it doesn't overpower the chowder.)
Add the flour to the onion mixture and cook for about a minute.
Slowly whisk in the clam juice and water or fish stock.
Add the bay leaf, thyme and potatoes and simmer over medium low heat for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove bay leaf.
Add cream, clams with juice, parsley, white pepper and tabasco. Bring to simmer and season to taste with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
You may thicken this soup more if you like with flour, starch or instant potatoes.