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In the Kitchen: How to make clam chowder at home
clam chowder

In Wednesday’s edition of the Forsyth County News I told you all about my love of New England clam chowder and a little bit of it’s history in our country. I noted the past competition or even rivalry between those who love Manhattan clam chowder and those who favor the New England version of the dish. 

The good news? You can make both of them and be a clam chowder rock star in your own kitchen.

There are a few tips and tricks to help you take your clam chowder to the next level. 

First, use quality clams. Of course, if you have a source for fresh clams, that’s the best way to go. But before you roll your eyes, just know I almost always use canned clams and bottled clam juice. Bar Harbor is my favorite brand — it is truly worth seeking out. 

Second, use quality chicken stock. Next to homemade, which is far superior to anything on the grocery store shelves, I opt for organic chicken broth made from free range chickens. Buy low sodium if possible, so you can control the salt yourself. Lastly, use good quality, thick-cut bacon for the New England clam chowder.

 

New England clam chowder

4 strips thick cut bacon

3 tablespoons butter

1 onion, minced

1 stalk celery, minced

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced

3 cups bottled clam juice

1 ½ cups chicken broth

4 cans chopped clams, with juices

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 ½ cups heavy cream (or half and half)

1/4 cups Italian parsley, minced

Oyster crackers

 

Slice bacon into lardons. Cook in a big pot until bacon is very crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard bacon fat except for 3 tablespoons. Add butter and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and cook until completely softened, about 10 minutes. 

Stir in flour and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add thyme, bay leaves, clam juice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, stirring to combine. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. 

Stir in canned clams and their juices, salt, pepper and heavy cream. Heat to boiling point and taste for seasoning. To serve, ladle chowder into bowls, and top with cooked bacon and parsley. Serve with oyster crackers.

 •    •    •

Manhattan clam chowder

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, minced

1 stalk celery, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/3 cup parsley, minced

2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

3 red skinned potatoes, diced

4 cups clam juice

1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes

4 cans chopped clams, with juices

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and cook until vegetables are very soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Stir in crushed red pepper flakes and tomato paste and cook for another few minutes. 

Add parsley, thyme leaves, bay leaf, diced potatoes and clam juice. Bring to a boil and then add fire roasted tomatoes. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Add cans of clams with their juices. Season with salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.

 •    •    •

While cornbread might not seem like a routine accompaniment to clam chowder, trust me when I say it just works. You can make it with or without the jalapeno and cheddar cheese addition, but either way, it’s yummy.

 

Cornbread

1 cup flour

1 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup butter

1 cup buttermilk

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced (optional)

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk eggs with buttermilk. Place butter in a cast iron skillet and place in oven until skillet is hot and butter has melted. 

Whisk egg and buttermilk mixture into dry mixture and add jalapeno and grated cheddar if using. Pour into hot skillet with melted butter. Bake until knife comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.