New England Clam Chowder

From Marah Eakin
Serves 12

Over the last three years its been fascinating to see what soups turn up over and over again at Soup & Bread: We’ve seen a lot of lentils; and many pots of black beans, not to mention the ever-popular butternut squash. Last year, for reasons unexplored, chicken tortilla soup surged to the front of the pack — on two separate occasions we had two varieties in the house, complete with all the fixins. But believe it or not, in three years this was our very first clam chowder. And it was perfect: not too rich, and full of mild, wintry potatoes and succulent clams. Thanks Marah, for breaking new ground!

Ingredients

Clam Broth
4 slices bacon, chopped
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
16 littleneck clams, scrubbed well
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups water

Soup
2 tablespoons butter
extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 littleneck clams, scrubbed well
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

Start by making the clam broth: Put a large pot over medium heat, add the bacon and saute until the fat is rendered and the bacon is browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the cooked bacon pieces from the pot and reserve them for something else. Add a 1-count of olive oil, the onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the clams, lemon juice, white wine, and water and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes to steam open the clams. Remove the clams from the pot, discarding any that don’t open. Strain the broth into a bowl. Pull the clams out of their shells, chop them, and set them aside separately; discard the shells. Set the broth aside.

Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, onion, garlic, and thyme and cook until the bacon renders its fat and the vegetables are good and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Dust the vegetables with flour and stir to coat everything well. Pour in the clam broth and bring to a boil. Add the cream and the potatoes, bring to a boil and boil hard for about 7 minutes, until the potatoes break down (this will help to thicken the soup and give it a good texture). Add the chopped clams and season with salt and pepper.

Now add the 16 clams in their shells. Cover and simmer to open the clams, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve hot.

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