The above version is neither too thin nor too thick; to our taste, it is what New England clam chowder ought to be.
48 cherrystone clams
a little bottled clam juice (if necessary)
1 pint milk
1 pint heavy cream
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste
white pepper to taste
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1. Wash the clams well under cold running water in a colander. Place clams in a large pot, and add enough water to cover clams by 2 inches. Cover the pan and place over high heat.
2. When the water comes to a boil, give the pan a good shake. Turn the heat to low, and cook clams another 30 seconds or so. Remove from the heat, and take out all the clams that have opened, using a slotted spoon. If any clams remain closed, put back on the heat, with the lid on the pan, and cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Remove remaining clams, reserve, and discard any clams that have not opened.
3. Pour the clam broth through a fine strainer and set aside. You will need 6 cups of broth. If you have more than enough clam broth, reduce it to 6 cups. If you have too little clam broth, add some bottled clam juice or water to make 6 cups total.
4. Pour the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Bring the heat down to a low simmer, and reduce the mixture for 30 minutes.
5. Fill a large pan with water and bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside.
6. Put the bacon in a large, heavy saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the bacon just begins to brown. Remove the bacon from the pan, and pour off excess fat, leaving behind about 3 tablespoons of fat in the pan.
7. Cook onions and celery in bacon fat over moderate heat until soft, about 4 minutes. Add cooked bacon, lower heat, and stir in flour. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring to prevent mixture from sticking to pan.
8. Add reserved clam broth to onions, celery, and bacon. Bring to a boil and stir well. Add potatoes, lower heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
9. Add the cream mixture to the chowder, and simmer over low heat. While chowder is simmering, remove the clams from their shells and cut in quarters. Add the clams and cayenne pepper to the chowder, and season further with salt and white pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes more. Serve the chowder in warm bowls with a 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the center of each serving.
There have long been two main styles of the white-colored New England clam chowder, both of which we find unattractive. Mediocre restaurants throughout New England serve a thick sludge, under the name of this great soup, that can be used as book paste. Many home chefs, however, serve a thin version, unthickened with flour, that has the consistency of boiled milk (which is what their chowder is made from); we find this too thin to be truly interesting. The following version is neither too thin nor too thick; to our taste, it is what New England clam chowder ought to be. Serves 8