New England Clam Chowder
During spring and summer, shellfish spawn, leaving them weak, perishable, and off-flavored. Although clams recover from their spawning phase more quickly than mussels and oysters, they should be avoided from late spring through midsummer.
- 7 Pounds medium-size hard-shell clams, such as littleneck, topneck, or small cherrystone, washed and scrubbed clean
- 4 Slices thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 Large Spanish onion, diced medium (about 2 cups)
- 2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 Medium boiling potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), scrubbed and diced medium
- 1 Large bay leaf
- 1 Teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 Cup heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1. Bring clams and 3 cups water to boil in large, covered soup kettle. Following illustration 1, below, steam until clams just open, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer clams to large bowl; cool slightly. Following illustrations 2 and 3, remove clams from shells by opening clams with a paring knife while holding over a bowl to catch juices. Next, sever the muscle from under the clam and remove it from the shell. Reserve meat in bowl and discarding shells. Mince clams; set aside. Pour clam broth into 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup, holding back last few tablespoons broth in case of sediment; set clam broth aside. (Should have about 5 cups.) Rinse and dry kettle; return to burner.
2. Fry bacon in kettle over medium-low heat until fat renders and bacon crisps, 5 to 7 minutes. Add onion to bacon; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour; stir until lightly colored, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in reserved clam juice. Add potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add clams, cream, parsley, and salt (if necessary) and ground pepper to taste; bring to simmer. Remove from heat and serve.