Clam Chowder

Clam chowder is a New England favorite, and it’s quite a treat when made properly. However, even in New England most restaurants take shortcuts and their chowder often disappoints. Luckily, it’s easy to make an exquisite clam chowder at home.

Ingredients

Part of the secret is to have fresh ingredients. Clam chowder made with fresh clams is much better than clam chowder made from canned clams. In Boston, live clams are readily available in supermarkets; those who are farther from the sea may be able to find seafood stores that carry clams. It’s worth trying at least once so you know what you’re missing!

Here are most of the ingredients: potatoes, celery, onions, butter, 1 cup heavy cream, and 1 tbsp tapioca starch mixed with 2 tbsp water to make a paste that dissolves easily in water.

Here are the clams we used. Soak them in salt water (1/2 tsp salt in the water) for a half hour or more to help remove impurities; discard the soaking water:

We also used 2 cups chicken broth, but forgot to take a picture of it.

Cooking the Clams

The object is to steam the clams while collecting the juice that comes out of the clams when they open. This clammy juice adds great flavor to the chowder.

We used a pot with 2 steaming baskets, a deep one and a shallow one, and a glass cover. We put a bowl in the deep basket to collect the clam juice:

We brought the water in the bottom of the pot to a boil, then added the clams to the top shallow basket and covered:

If you don’t have a pot with 2 steaming basket, just put the clams in the bowl in your single steaming basket.

After about 5 minutes, the clams open. Turn off the heat – they are now cooked.

Any clams that refuse to open are bad and should be discarded. Scrape out the open clam meat into a bowl. You can dice the clams if you like; we chose to keep them whole.

The juice that came out of the clams will look like this:

The clams have a surprising amount of liquid inside; we gathered about 1 cup. Note that you don’t need to extract the bowl from the steamer basket; when ready you can pour this liquid directly into the soup with the bowl still inside.

Preparing The Chowder

While the clams are being prepared, you can be working simultaneously on the chowder.

In a wok, begin by sautéing the onions in a half stick of butter for one minute:

Add the celery and stir another minute:

Then the chicken broth:

At this point dice the raw potatoes and add them to the pot. (It’s best to avoid exposing the potato to air for long periods of time. If you want to cut the potatoes ahead of time, store them in water.) The potatoes need to boil about 15-20 minutes; they should be cooked but not totally softened.

When the clam juice and clams are ready, add them too. It will look like this:

When the potatoes are cooked, add the cup of heavy cream, and salt and pepper and any other spices you like, and return to a near-simmer.

Gradually mix in the tapioca starch paste, tasting periodically until you reach a thickness you like. When the chowder is properly thick, warm, and well-mixed, you’re done:

Serve:

Conclusion

Chowder that is made with tomatoes is called “Manhattan Clam Chowder.” This concoction is illegal in New England. If you make it and live in Massachusetts, take care not to post pictures on the Internet.

We predict you’ll love this chowder. Enjoy!

Leave a comment ?

19 Comments.

  1. Hi Paul,

    Just a curiosity, are clams and oysters interchangeable (at least for the purpose of this recipe) ?

    thank you

    Justin

  2. Hi Justin,

    Healthwise oysters are just fine, and tastewise we haven’t tried oysters but they should work. Oysters are more expensive than clams.

    Best, Paul

  3. This is great. Nice to see a few non-asian PHD recipes.

    Lomo Saltado and risotto would be interesting as well. Lomo in particular because of the asian connections.

    You’ve probably addressed this in your book, but is there something particularly healthy about clams?

    Found the information about potassium and nuclear radiation interesting (depressing!) reading this weekend. Perhaps you can expand on this.

  4. Hi Robert,

    Good ideas, thanks. I thought about a post on protection against radiation, but decided against it for the time being. Iodine supplementation is protective, but as always go slowly. Dr. Brownstein had a post on it: http://drdavidbrownstein.blogspot.com/2011/03/iodine-and-radiation-fallout-from-japan.html

    Shellfish is great for trace minerals, but generally protein rich and fat poor. It adds variety to the diet. We eat it maybe once a week, or once every two weeks.

    I’ve passed the Lomo Saltado suggestion on to Shou-Ching.

    Best, Paul

  5. Paul:

    I look forward to trying your chowder recipe; it looks so rich and so good and I am delighted to find it as I am sensitive to wheat. My mom used to make big pots of clam chowder in the winter. I would add a pat of butter, salt and pepper, and some crushed- up saltines. That was just heaven. I wonder if rice crackers would work as well as saltines? As a Mass. native living in Louisiana I laughed out loud at the last sentence! So true. I have had people here say to me “isn’t chowder that tomato soup with clams in it?”. I just growl at them.

    I heard your interview with Jimmy Moore and have ordered your book from Amazon. I have been doing a low ‘simple’ carb diet with great success and I think your book will fill some important gaps for me and have some fresh ideas.

  6. Yum … can’t wait to try this. Lived in Boston for nearly 20 years and miss it terribly!

  7. I had 12 raw clams for breakfast today along with 5 raw eggs. Delicious and highest source of B-12 of all foods. Ever since I’ve started eating either raw oysters or clams everyday, my libido, strength and overall health have improved significantly. 12 Raw Clams provide about 1500% RDA of B-12 and 12 Oysters about 1200% of RDA of Zinc as well as about 550% of B-12 and about 130% RDA of Vitamin D.

  8. I forgot to mention at dinner Saturday night when you and Shou-Ching mentioned the upcoming post on clam chowder (which looks marvelous, by the way!), that when I used to live in Stoneham, I would attend the annual clam chowder festival held in Ipswitch. I fondly remember sampling a wide variety of delicious chowders, all New England style, of course!

  9. Hi Aaron,

    Thanks for letting us know! Looks like it happens in October: http://www.ipswichma.com/calendar/details.asp?ID=789

    We’ll have to check it out this year. Maybe we should enter!

  10. Your entry would be very competitive! Not sure if it’s limited to restaurants, or if individuals can enter as well.

  11. Your clam chowder looks heavenly! I can see how it would work well with oysters or even a mix of animal sea foods.

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  13. Hi there.

    I’m looking to try this recipe, but I don’t see any measurement on the quantity of clams used.

    Thanks.

  14. Hi Paul,
    you recommends eating fish, oysters, seaweed.
    I read that marine fish are contaminated with heavy metals, are irradiated etc.
    Oysters, mussels play the role of filter and collect contaminants. Please your opinion on this topic.
    Thank you.

    • Hi emilia,

      Seafood near the bottom of the food chain (oysters, mussels, salmon, and seaweeds) are very low in heavy metals. It is only large predatory fish (shark, swordfish, etc.) which are a worry for mercury and other heavy metal contamination.

      For example, eating a pound of salmon per week exposes you to approximately the same amount of mercury as eating a pound of swordfish per year. See for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_in_fish#Levels_of_contamination

      Best,
      -Eric

  15. Hi Eric,
    thank you for your answer.
    Oysters are a type of shellfish that is often eaten raw. As for all raw foods, oysters may be contaminated with harmful bacteria. What’s more, the oysters are a relatively high risk to health due to the risk of hepatitis. This is due to the fact that oysters filter large quantities of water in order to obtain their food, and hence there is a high likelihood that bacteria and viruses present in water, develop into shellfish.
    I heard that when inserted into a dirty aquarium, after a few days the water is czysciutka.
    Also there are natural filters and everything in them remains.
    Best regards
    Emilia

  16. Hi Eric,
    thank you for your answer.
    Oysters are a type of shellfish that is often eaten raw. As for all raw foods, oysters may be contaminated with harmful bacteria. What’s more, the oysters are a relatively high risk to health due to the risk of hepatitis. This is due to the fact that oysters filter large quantities of water in order to obtain their food, and hence there is a high likelihood that bacteria and viruses present in water, develop into shellfish.
    I heard that when inserted into a dirty aquarium, after a few days the water is clear.
    Also there are natural filters and everything in them remains.
    Best regards
    Emilia

  17. Hi Eric,
    thank you for your answer.
    Oysters are a type of shellfish that is often eaten raw. As for all raw foods, oysters may be contaminated with harmful bacteria. What’s more, the oysters are a relatively high risk to health due to the risk of hepatitis. This is due to the fact that oysters filter large quantities of water in order to obtain their food, and hence there is a high likelihood that bacteria and viruses present in water, develop into shellfish.
    I heard that when inserted into a dirty aquarium, after a few days the water is clear.
    Also there are natural filters and everything in them remains.
    Best regards
    Emilia

    • Hi emilia,

      Cooking seafood will destroy the harmful bacteria. (I cook all my seafood, even oysters.)

      The hepatitis A vaccine is sufficiently effective that there is no serious risk of hepatitis A infection from seafood (especially if cooked).

      Best,
      -Eric

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