There are two secrets to excellent clam chowder. The first is fresh clams and plenty of clam liquor. The second is bacon. The perfect blend of surf and turf, smoky bacon elevates the natural clam flavors, and makes for a hearty and warming winter stew.
Clam Chowder with Bacon
12 large chowder clams (or two dozen small clams)
1/2 lb. thick cut bacon, rough chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 medium potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
4 – 5 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 sprigs parsley, minced
splash of Madiera or sherry (optional)
First pick over your clams, discarding any with chipped or cracked shells. Next, clean your clams — get a useful how-to here.
In a large steaming pot, add 1 1/2 cups water, and then the steaming bucket with the cleaned clams. Steam clams for 5 – 10 minutes, until they have just opened. For those that don’t open, remove open clams and steam for a bit longer. Any clams that do not open should be discarded.
Shuck clams with a knife — open them over a bowl and save any juice that comes out. Mince the clams.
In large pot (To keep from messing up every dish you have, use the same one you steamed the clams in — rinse it first.), cook the bacon over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove bacon to a bowl. Add the onion to the bacon drippings and cook until it softens, about four minutes. Add the flour, stir, and cook for another minute. Add the potatoes, bay, thyme, reserved clam liquor, salt, and pepper (If you don’t have enough clam juice, add a touch of water.). Cover and simmer over medium-low heat 10 – 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
Stir in the cream, parsley, minced clams, and Madeira, if using. Warm over low heat, stirring frequently.
Adjust salt and pepper levels as needed.
Serve with large hunks of toasted bread, and a few fresh herb sprigs.