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New England Clam Chowder with Leeks and Bacon

New England Clam Chowder with Leeks and Bacon
The slightly sweet flavors of the leeks and bacon highlight the natural sweetness of fresh clams in this elaboration of a classic chowder. Fresh bay scallops would also be good prepared this way. Serve with crusty bread or oyster crackers.

Ingredients:

  • 36 clams in the shell, well scrubbed
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 lb. lean bacon, rind removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 leek, including tender green portions, trimmed, carefully washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 1 lb. red potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Discard any cracked or open clams. In a large pot, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter over low to medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it begins to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water and wine, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly. Immediately add the clams, cover and steam just until they open, 7 to 10 minutes.

Line a strainer with a cheesecloth and set inside a large bowl. Pour the contents of the pot into the strainer; discard any unopened clams. Set the clams and strained liquid aside separately.

Rinse out the pot, add the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and place over medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté until it just begins to brown. Add the leek and sauté until it begins to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute more.

Stirring continuously, pour in the reserved clam liquid and the cream. When the liquid reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the potatoes and thyme.

Pull the clams from the shells. If they are large, cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. When the potatoes are tender, after about 15 minutes, add the clams and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes more. Season with pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with the chives and parsley.
Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Soups, by Norman Kolpas (Time-Life Books, 1993).