This wonderful creamy chowder is my favorite. I first made it back in the latter 1970’s when I was trying to impress a new and very lovely lady in my life, Carol Suzanne Landsinger. As is so typical of me, I glanced at a recipe in some lesser cookbook and decided then and there how I was going to improve it, before making it even one time. So I did. Carol was quite impressed, and I was shocked by my own success, and we had a delightful time eating it from warmed soup bowls with crackers and butter and a salad and enjoying a rose′ wine that she liked best, Rosé d’Anjou®. It is funny how some of the finer details in life are never forgotten, for that was a bit more than half my life ago. What is even funnier is that I was so head over heels in love with her and focused on her beauty and her exciting wit/intelligence and her personality that it is a marvel that I even tasted the food.
Overall, this story calls attention to the fact we humans can be impressed, sometimes deeply, when we are served excellent food. Whatever your personal goal, if you take the time to please someone important in your life or potentially to your life, you have made a wise decision, for our subliminal judgments cause us to associate the quality of the pleasure with the person who provided it. This is no small consideration, and I am the voice of experience.
Speaking of experience, let's segue to the present. Today I buy the 51 ounce large cans of SeaWatch® chopped clams and clam broth in a two can pack at Sams Club®. One can of that product provides one quart of clam juice and an ample amount of clams to make roughly a gallon of new england clam chowder. This way of buying clams is vastly superior to what you get in those runty little 6.5 ounce cans that are 80% clam juice. Thus, I double the recipe shown below (and add one additional cup of cream) except for the clams and clam juice, and WOW, what a great result! More clams/higher solids content equals more enjoyment. I also homed in on the perfect amount of sea salt to use for that quantity of clam chowder ... one teaspoon. I served that more robust clam chowder last evening to friends Julie and Bill Bentley. All three of us had ample servings and then we had seconds, and they provided a great Caesar salad and we had both Mouton Cadet® Bordeaux (red)and Louis Jadot® Pouilly Fuisse´ (white) wines. Yeah! I served my homemade triple chocolate pudding with whipped cream for dessert. What a fine time!
Ingredients: (Serves four people 1½ cups of chowder)
2, 6.5 oz. cans of chopped clams in clam juice (but see alternative above)
1, 8 oz. bottle of clam juice
1, pint heavy cream
1, medium onion, diced
1, very large russet potato, peeled and diced
2, strips of good quality bacon
½ tsp. White pepper
Sea salt to taste
1 tbsp. butter
1 to 2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Use a small slotted spoon to remove the clam pieces from each can of clams and put the pieces in a bowl. Drain the clam juice from the cans of chopped clams into a one quart bowl, avoiding any sand or other material that may be in the bottom of each can. Add the 8 oz. bottle of clam juice to the bowl, again avoiding any material in the bottom of the bottle. Set the clams aside. Set the clam juice aside.
Fry the two strips of bacon on low to medium heat until there is no uncooked fat, but do not make the bacon overly crisp and do not burn it or overheat the bacon fat. Remove the bacon to a paper towel. Break it into small pieces when it has cooled. Set the bacon aside.
Dice the onion into ½" or smaller pieces. Put them into the skillet with the hot bacon grease. Add the butter and ½ tsp. white pepper. Sauté the onion on low heat until it is translucent. Turn off the heat and add 1 tbsp. of the flour to the skillet and mix well.
Dice the potato into cubes 3/8" on a side. Put the reserved clam juice and the potatoes into a two quart covered saucepan and heat on medium high heat until just boiling. Reduce the heat to medium or medium low and allow the potatoes to simmer for 8 minutes, adding a very small amount of water if necessary to barely cover the potato pieces.
Add the skillet contents to the saucepan while stirring, increase the heat to medium and stir to mix well and thicken the chowder as it starts to boil. Add the clams and continue to cook on medium heat for one minute. If the chowder has thickened enough proceed to the next step, else use a second tbsp. of flour mixed in ¼ cup of water, add it to the chowder and heat on medium high to barely boiling while stirring. Reduce the heat to medium.
Add the heavy cream and the small pieces of bacon, mix well and heat the chowder only up to a simmer. Do not boil.
Note: I know of no recipes where the bacon pieces are added back into the chowder, and frankly I think they miss the mark in terms of flavor and texture contrasts.
Sample the chowder and adjust the seasoning by adding white pepper or sea salt as needed. We did not use any sea salt earlier until we could tell at the end of the cooking just how much salt the bacon contributed.
Serve the chowder in pre-warmed crocks garnished with the freshly chopped parsley, and also serve saltine crackers and butter.
Adding a small tossed salad with a non-creamy dressing makes this a complete meal, and it is a nice accompaniment with texture and flavor contrasts. Yes, a light fresh tasting French white burgundy wine is a fine beverage with that meal, or, Carol’s favorite rose.
You may be in love.