It has been about fifteen years since John and I lived in Connecticut, and yet we still talk about the fantastic food we used to experience on the East Coast. I love living in Texas and the cuisine we find in the state. Texas has the best barbecue and we do like the tex-mex, but there is nothing like the New England fare. Fresh seafood, johnny cakes, baked beans, maple syrup, and clam cakes. Let us indulge on lobster rolls, New England clam bakes, Boston baked beans, Del’s Frozen Lemonade, whoopee pies, and coffee milk. All of a sudden I feel the need to visit both of our families and, family, it’s not just for the food.
A while back, Groomer Seafood received a shipment of fresh Maine lobster. I went a little nuts and bought 12 lobsters and posted my lobster bisque recipe for you all to try. I remember that day I was in a supercharged state trying to make sure I got my hands on those precious, succulent creatures. Making the bisque, stock, and just plain old eating the steamed red beasts brought back wonderful memories. Sitting on the beach with my lobster roll from a favorite seafood shack, going to the Union Oyster House with John, and steaming lobsters every New Year’s Eve.
However, it’s not like Texas doesn’t have its share of seafood. I patronize a fish and seafood market, Groomer Seafood. In my opinion, Groomer has the freshest fish and seafood in San Antonio. It’s different than in the seafood markets back on the East Coast, and I say that because of the difference of the regions. However, I do have to say the Groomer family and employees are experts on their precious cargos.
Now back to my nostalgia. I am yearning for fresh clams and most notably New England Clam Chowder. I love the creamy, thickness of the chowder, which is loaded with chopped, fresh clams. Add in the potatoes that take on a bit of the clam flavor because they are cooked in the broth, and, oh my word, you have a winner.
I have two versions of the clam chowder. The one I’m sharing today is a newer version and has flour and 2% milk in the ingredient list. It is thick, creamy, and yum. What I will do in the coming weeks is share the other recipe and you can decide which one you like the best. I know my favorite. Will it be yours?
New England Clam Chowder
(Adapted from Taste of Home, Sandy Larson)
Prep Time: 40 min
Cook Time: 55 min
7 lbs. fresh clams, scrubbed
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
8 slices of center-cut bacon strips (option: substitute 2 tablespoons butter instead of bacon)
3 celery stalks, destringed and chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 – 8 red potatoes, diced and eyes pared out
16 ounces clam juice
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon white pepper
1/8 cayenne pepper
2/3 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup 2% milk
In a Dutch oven over medium high heat add white wine and water. Bring it to a soft boil. Gently add the clams and cover. Steam clams for 10 minutes. Take a slotted spoon and remove clams and pour broth through a mesh strainer to remove grit. Set aside. When cool enough to handle chop clams.
Rinse and wipe clean the Dutch oven. If using bacon, place on burner at medium high heat and add bacon strips. Cook till crisp but don’t over cook. Remove bacon to drain on paper towels.
Drain bacon fat less 2 tablespoons (or use the 2 tablespoons butter instead of the bacon fat). Sauté the celery and onions until onions are translucent and starting to lightly brown. Slide Dutch oven over to a non-heated burner and add the garlic. Stir and wait 1 minute (Note: I do this to make sure garlic does not burn). Slide the pot back on heat and add potatoes, the wine/clam broth, clam juice, bouillon, white pepper, cayenne pepper, and thyme. Bring to a soft boil. Reduce the heat to medium low; simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Don’t over cook the potatoes.
In a bowl whisk half-and-half and flour until smooth. Slowly add flour mixture into the soup, stirring constantly. Bring back to a soft boil. Cook until thickened, 2-3 minutes.
Stir in chopped clams and milk. Heat the soup to preferred temperature without bringing the chowder to a boil. Crush the bacon (if cooked in beginning of recipe) into tiny pieces and sprinkle on top of individual servings.