Clam Chowder is a tradition in my family. You see, every year my parents make Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve. My brother isn't enormously fond of that dish, so somewhere along the road we decided that the response to OS was New England Clam Chowder. We have never looked back. We've tried a handful of recipes, but most notably Legal Sea Food's recipe, which is very good.
When I saw this recipe in Ad Hoc at Home, I knew I wanted to try it. Yes, it's a few more steps than most versions, but the flavors seemed interesting and I was game for a little extra work if it meant lovely, silky chowder. This did not disappoint. The homemade oyster crackers were an awesome garnish, as well.
Rolling out crackers. So worth it.
Crunchy salty goodness.
Stirring the pot.
Clam chowder, anyone?
Clam Chowder with Bacon (from Ad Hoc at Home)
8 ounces applewood smoked slab bacon
2 cups coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
5 garlic cloves
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 Sachet (10 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 2 thyme sprigs, 1 smashed garlic cloves, all tied up in cheesecloth)
4 pounds littleneck or Manila clams
1 1/4 cups kosher salt
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped shallots
2 thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
4 1/2 tablespoons (2 1/4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Cut the bacon into lardons that measure 1 inch by 1/2 inches.
Heat some canola oil in an 8 to 10 quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon, reduce the heat to low, and let the fat render for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring from time to time; the bacon should color but not crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan.
Add the leeks, onions, and garlic to the pan and stir to coat with bacon fat. Sprinkle with salt, cover with a parchment lid, and cook very slowly for 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the lid.
Put the potatoes, sachet, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and spread on a tray to cool; discard the sachet.
Use a clean scouring pad to scrub any sand from the shells of the clams. Put the clams in a large bowl. Mix 8 cups water and the salt in another bowl, stirring to to dissolve the salt. Pour enough of the water over the clams to cover, and soak for about 5 minutes, to purge them of any sand.
Life the clams from the water, drain the water, and repeat the soaking one more time. Drain the clams and rinse under cold water.
When the vegetables are tender, increase the heat to medium and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, stir in the flour to coat the vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes to take away the raw flour taste. Whisk in the milk and cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and bring to a very low simmer.
Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and thyme sprigs, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until the shallots are tender. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes to evaporate some of the alcohol. Add the clams, cover the pan, and cook for about 4 minutes, removing the clams as they open. Strain all the clam liquid through a fine-mesh conical strainer into a bowl. Shell the clams and set aside.
Gently stir clam liquid to taste into the soup (avoid any sand that may have settled in the bottom of the bowl.) Season the chowder with salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir in the potatoes, and add about two-thirds of the clams.
Spread the bacon in a small frying pan and crisp over medium-high heat. Garnish the soup with the bacon, remaining clams, and the chives.