Having grown up on the Boston area, I remember eating clam chowder since I was a kid. At home my mother always made fish chowder which was a milk based chowder and much thinner than the current versions of clam chowder. So when I make clam chowder I find I prefer a medium to thin chowder. But that's the interesting thing about most foods, including New England Clam Chowder, you can always change it to make it your own. Start with the Clam Chowder recipe below and later we will explore 8 Steps to Creating Your Recipe for New England Clam Chowder.
New England Clam Chowder is a staple of all Boston seafood restaurants as well as most bars and pretty much every other type of restaurant in New England. A couple of my favorites are Durgin Park and Sam LaGrassa's. Durgin Park probably because my grandfather first took me there many years ago and it was clam chowder and fried clams which will always be favorites. Their chowder is a medium thickness with a pretty traditional flavor.
Sam LaGrassa's is actually more known as a sandwich shop that serves Boston's business folks some of the best pastrami around. It was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and clam chowder was one of the featured dishes. It is a much thinner chowder, more reminiscent of fish chowder, with a very herby taste. I think it is one of those that either you really like or you prefer the more milky flavor of "traditional" chowder. I would actually consider this more traditional than most of the chowders being served around the area.
1. First decide what you want to use for chopped clams and broth. If you are steaming clams check out 8 Things to Consider When Steaming Hard Shell Clams in the Techniques section. If you are using canned clams and bottled broth make sure that is on hand and we will proceed.
2. Saute the salt pork until crispy like bacon. Remove the salt pork to drain on paper towels and reserve, leaving the fat in the pot.
3. Add the onion, celery, white pepper and salt (if using) to the rendered fat and cook until translucent. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add just enough flour to absorb the fat and cook for a minute or two, stirring often. Regarding the amount of flour to use, we are not trying to thicken the chowder here but we do want to absorb the fat used to saute the vegetables so we don't have pools of liquid fat floating on top of our chowder.
4. Add the potatoes, clam juice and thyme bring to a light boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are cooked the way you like them.
5. Add the half and half and the clams and heat through, but do not bring to a boil. Test for seasoning and add if necessary.