Good clam chowder should have a nice balance of clams, potatoes and onions, in a light creamy broth. I prefer my chowda well balanced because I want to taste the beautiful seafood in my soup and not a heavy broth. However, I do think a final touch of cream is needed to add richness and depth to clam chowder and it immediately turns it from a soup to a chowder.
When I was young after a good day at the beach, me and my family would sometimes visit a seafood restaurant called Crab Cooker on Newport Beach peninsula that had the most amazing clam chowder. It was creamy and brothy and we ate it out of paper cups with plastic spoons. I remember thinking how nice the clams tasted as they bobbed up and down in my bowl – now that’s what clam chowder should taste like.
To make great chowder, you have to start with fresh clams. Many recipes call for canned clams, but they are not the same, not fresh enough. Steaming fresh clams takes only minutes and it is well worth the effort. This chowder is really simple to put together and your seafood dinner can be served within 30 minutes.
2 1/2 pounds fresh clams
5 Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1 white onion
3 stalks celery
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Rinse clams and check for any open or broken clams, discard if needed. Place unopened clams in a medium pot and add 1 inch of water to bottom. Place pot over medium heat and cover with lid. Steam clams for 4-6 minutes or until open.
2. Remove clams from pot with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl to cool. Strain clam broth through a fine mesh strainer and reserve. When clams are cool enough to handle, remove from shells. Discard shells and rough chop clams. Set aside.
3. Peel and dice potatoes and onions, and slice celery. In the same pot, add 2 tablespoons of butter and place over medium heat. Add onions and celery and saute for 4 minutes. Add bay leaf and clam broth.
4. In a small cup, stir together flour and 1/4 cup of water, add it to pot. Continue cooking mixture for 4 minutes, until it begins to thicken slightly.
5. Add potatoes, chicken broth, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cover pot with lid. Turn heat to simmer and cook chowder for 20 minutes. Remove lid and add chopped clams. Drizzle in cream and stir to combine. Continue to cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
6. Ladle chowder into bowls and serve immediately. Enjoy!