New England Style Clam Chowder

There was a time when Catholics did not eat red meat on Fridays and as a result it was always Fish Friday in my world during Bart - The Early Years. If you look at many restaurant menus today the Fish Friday is often a Clam Chowder Friday as a relic of those days and I do love me some clam chowder.

6 lbs live cherrystone clams, or other large clams that are available

1 large can (400 grams) baby clams, drained with liquid reserved

6 strips thick cut bacon (about ¾ lb), minced

2 Tbsp butter
2 medium onions, minced
1 ½ cups celery, small dice
1 ½ cups carrot, small dice

cup all-purpose flour
6 potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2' cubes

1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
3 bay leaves
¼ cup dry sherry

2 cups half and half cream or heavy cream

Place clams into large pot and add 6 cups of water.  Cover pot with tight fitting lid and place over high heat.  Once the water has come to a boil cook for 5 minutes. Stir the clams once and then continue to cook for 5 minutes longer.  Remove clams from heat and set liquid aside to cool.

Once clams are cool, remove meat from the shells then chop coarsely, set aside.

Once clam liquid is cooled enough to handle, pour off through a fine mesh sieve lined with a coffee filter or some cheesecloth. Set aside.
Note: If you don’t want to mess around with live clams, you can use one pound of frozen clam meat and 2 quarts of canned clam nectar or use an additional large can of baby clams. Your choice. Or use shrimp, or mussels, or crab. Be daring!!!

Mise en place people!!!  Have everything ready to enhance your cooking experience...

Place a large soup pot over medium heat. Add butter. 

Once the melting butter has stopped bubbling add the bacon and cook until slightly crispy. Yes I know, cooking bacon in butter just seems so wrong, but it is essential. Trust me.

Once the bacon is crispy add the onion, celery and carrots. Cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Once vegetables are cooked add the flour and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes, being careful not to brown.

Add reserved clam liquid to the flour mixture and stir well to blend the liquid and ensure there are no dreaded flour lumps.  

Once liquid is stirred in add the potatoes, tarragon, thyme, bay leaves and sherry. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Add clams to the soup stock.

Bring back to a gentle boil, then add the cream. Stir gently to avoid breaking up the potatoes and clams. Bring back to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes longer. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Stir gently then serve.

Serves 8 people for a main course with a little left for tomorrow’s lunch.