Clam Chowder

I'm back to blogging after a wonderful and relaxing trip to Maui!

I should be posting about something summer-y but H and I had a craving for clam chowder the other day so despite the warm weather I decided to give it a try. Its a good thing even in summertime we get fog here in San Francisco. That way we were able to pretend we were eating soup on a cozy winter night even though the rest of the Bay Area is dying of heat.

This recipe is from the November 2003 issue of Gourmet Magazine (via Epicurious). I modified it a bit because I didn't feel like dealing with the hassle of fresh clams (I used canned) or leeks (I used shallots). OK, OK leeks are not a hassle...I was just being cheap and didn't want to buy them.

See my cooks notes at the bottom. After making it once I would do some things different the next time.

Makes about 4-6 servings

3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices (*Note- you can substitute with about 3 shallots, diced)
1 cup water
40 small (2-inch) hard-shelled clams (4 pounds) such as littlenecks, scrubbed well (*Note-I used two 6.5 oz cans of diced clams, drained & rinsed)
3 bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
5 celery ribs, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes (4 medium)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups bottled clam juice or water
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

1. Wash leeks well in a bowl of cold water, then lift out and drain well (if using shallots as a substitute skip this step).

2. Bring 1 cup fresh water to a boil in a 5-quart heavy pot, then add clams and cook over moderately high heat, covered, until clams are fully open, checking every minute after 5 minutes and transferring clams with a slotted spoon to a bowl as they fully open. (Discard any clams that have not opened after 8 minutes.) Pour cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl. Remove cooked clams from shells, discarding shells. Coarsely chop clams and transfer to a bowl, then coarsely chop raw oysters and transfer to another bowl. Pour reserved oyster liquor through sieve into bowl with clam cooking liquid. (If using canned clams you can skip this step)

3. Cook bacon in cleaned pot over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp, about 6 minutes, then transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Add butter to pot and when foam subsides, cook onion, leeks/shallots, celery, and bay leaf, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 12 to 15 minutes.

4. While vegetables are cooking, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Add wine to softened vegetables and boil until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add potatoes and bottled clam juice. (If potatoes aren't fully covered with liquid, add more clam juice or water.) Simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Purée 2 cups soup in a blender until very smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Add cream, salt, pepper, Old Bay, and cayenne and cook at a bare simmer, stirring, until soup is heated through (do not let boil). Add clams and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Serve topped with crumbled bacon.


1- As mentioned above you can use canned clams rather then fresh. I put in two 6.5oz cans but will add more next time. Maybe 1-2 more cans. The soup wasn't very clammy tasting.

2. I used 1 bottle of clam juice but will add 2 next time so I don't have to add water in step 4 when cooking potatoes. I wanted to have a bit more clam taste and didn't get that because I had to put in about 1 cup of water to cover potatoes.

3. The bacon topping is good but next time I will double the bacon and mix the cooked crumbles in with the soup to give it a deeper smoky flavor.

4. Recipe calls to puree 2 cups of the soup at the end but I did 4 cups because I wanted it more creamy then chunky. This turned out to be the perfect ratio. It was really creamy with just a few potato chunks mixed in.

All in all this was a yummy soup and tasted great leftover too.

I have lots of blog updates to come...a great menu for a Hawaiian themed party and the status on our worm farm! I know you cant wait!

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