What a treat it is to have this rich delicious treat. Probably not an everyday food because of the calorie and fat content. I would say that if you want to give yourself a savory treat and your guests this is one for you. Subtle clam flavor accompanied be these great ingredients will give you a winning Clam Chowder.
The building of a great new england clam chowder
Some people describe the foods they cook and eat as layered flavors. This one definately fits that description. You have a number of ingredients that combine to give you this creamy rich clam flavored treat.
In French cooking the term fond or foundation is given to stocks. While we simply use the term stock a foundation is an appropriate term. We will take a clam stock and build a strong recipe from it. The flavors in the clam stock will primarily be the agent of flavoring this dish.
If the stock is the foundation then the potatoes will act as a door into the building and the celery and onions the stair case. Without the foundation they are meanlingless because there is no where to go. The cream provides the elevator and the clams are the penthouse.
They all have a unique function that complement each other. In and among themselves they each are distinct and unique. Together they combine for the final build in your bowl, Classic New England Clam Chowder.
Different types of clams
Clams come in many sizes we uses some littleneck clams for this recipe. We washed them and simmered them to extract the flavor. We used the stock that was the product of cooking the clams and we used this as the foundation for this soup. You could buy clam broth and buy clams in a can as well. However fresh is always best is a saying. This doesn't mean canned or jarred isn't good these will also make a great chowder.
Clams can be frozen or canned if you can't get fresh ones. In the fresh form you can get chopped or whole shucked. The types of clams are a great variety. Usually for a chowder you will use an ocean clam or a quohog, these tend to be larger and can be chopped. There is less belly which makes it more desirable in a chowder.
There is a great resource at the Washington State Department of Health that shows images of clams and how they differ. It describes where they may be located. The variety is staggering on the east coast there are cherry stones, littlenecks, quohogs, razor clams, softshell clams and geoducks. The variety is large.
Most importantly you want to get the right clam for the job. Quohogs are good for stuffing because of their size, while see clams are often cut into strips for fried clam strips. They also can be used in chopped clam for chowders or clam cakes in Rhode Island. Soft shell clams are often steamer clams that you find at a clam bake. Little necks and cherry stones you might find at a raw bar. Fried clams can be strips or whole belly clams which are both different and yet both delicious in there own way.
If you wish to enjoy New England Clam Chowder on the reduced fat or calorie scale there are some options that you can take. The primary source of fat and calories come from the cream and the butter in the roux. These would be 2 places that we could look to reduce the fat content which will in turn reduce the calorie count.
If you eliminate the roux, which is the butter and flour you need to find a means to thicken the chowder. One of those means would be to use a corstarch thickener. The cornstarch can be made into a slurry (dissolve in cold liquid) then whisk into the stock and bring to a boil. The cornstarch won't thicken until it comes to a boil However you cann't boil milk, milk will seperate immediatley on boil into whey and liquid. It looks curdled.
Another way to thicken without using roux is to either use potato pearls (instant potato) or puree potatoes. These could also be an alternative for gluten free chowder option. If using potato to thicken you would want to use potatoes with no skin on them. You would have to adjust the amount of potatoes needed as well to get the desired consistancy.
The other means to reduce the fat and calories would be to eliminate or reduce the cream. This recipe calls for 2 cups of heavy cream. You could switch this with half and half or even milk. It is crucial to note that if you take these steps to make this healthier you can't boil milk. If you do the milk will seperate immediately and look like it has sand in it.
If you use milk it is recommended to heat the milk in a microwave to 180 or 190 degrees. Stir this into your already thickened product. Don't heat milk on stove unless you are very careful to not let it boil.
If you remove these items your chowder will still be flavorful and your calorie and fat will be greatly reduced.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
There is another option for chowder. This option is produced in a lighter mind frame. The cream is eliminated because Manhattan Clam Chowder uses a tomato product in place of the cream and there is no roux added to thicken the chowder.
Manhattan clam is unheard of to eat if you are in North East section of the country, New England to be precise. It is as popular as the New York Yankees and Jets. If you need clarification both teams, in fact any New York sports franchise isn't well liked, at all (being polite). Manhattan Clam chowder falls into this same category in New England.
However more and more this is becoming a healthier alternative for a chowder. The clam stock seasoned and given body to by tomato product. The varieties are more prevalent in recipes than a standard New England Clam Chowder. In Boston we would savy Chowda, and there isn't another kind there, New Enlgand Clam Chowda. Manhattan has potatoes, celery and onions as well.
While many enjoy the lighter fare in a chowder that the Manhattan variety offers it just isn't the same as a nice rich creamy New England Clam Chowda.
New England Clam Chowder
- 2.5 cups potato cooked, diced
- 1/2 cup onion spanish, small diced
- 1/2 cup celery small diced
- 1/2 cup bacon diced
- 2 cups cream heavy
- 6.25 oz roux 1/4 cup butter, 4 oz. flour
- 36 oz clam juice using 50 count littelneck clams or chowder clams to get stock, shell should be tightly closed, if not they shouldn't be purchased or used
- 1 T salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/8 tsp thyme ground
- cook bacon in the bottom of a stockpot until a little crispy
- as bacon is finishing add celery, onions to pot and cook until translucent or tender. 3 - 5 minutes, add thyme, salt, pepper
- dice potato and cook until tender on the side, reserve until the final combination of ingredients
- if using clams for stock in place of clam broth, wash clams thoroughly,
- place in bottom of a 2nd stockpot, cover with 48 oz. of water,
- bring to boil, reduce to simmer, simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, until all clam shells have opened
- save stock, strain into a bowl or stockpot, remove clam meat into another bowl. discard shells
- Chop clams
- return stock to a stockpot, bring to a boil, whisk in already cooked roux, reduce to temperature to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes
- add cream, stir to incorporate
- combine thickened stock with cream to sauteed bacon, celery and onions, clams
- stir, adjust seasonings, Enjoy
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