Today is not just National Clam Chowder Day, but New England Clam Chowder Day. In New England, they take their cream based chowder very seriously. Often, you’ll find the soup special of the day to be Clam Chowder on any given Friday. That’s a throwback to the days when the Catholic Church was strict when in came to abstaining from meat on Fridays.
Despite the lacked rules regarding abstinence, many restaurants still offer Clam Chowder on Fridays year round. Those of us who adore New England’s rich, creamy Chowder are glad that old habits die hard.
Did you know that an old French word; Chaudière (pronounced “chowda”) is a large pot used for cooking? Some say that’s where the rest of us got the word “chowder” for this thick soup.
In New England, adding tomatoes in any form to Clam Chowder is shunned. Folks in New England felt so strongly about the tomato exclusion that a bill introduced in the Maine legislation would have made it against the law to do so. Can you imagine going to jail for putting tomatoes in Clam Chowder?
Clam Chowder has always had a special place in my heart. Hubby and I had the best chowder ever on our Honeymoon in Monterey’s Cannery Row. That is until we had the Chowder at the Driftwood Resort in Florence, Oregon. Now when I think of Chowder, I think of my sister. She and her hubby joined us this summer at the Driftwood. Naturally, I had them try the Chowder. They agreed, it was delicious.
This is a close second to my Smokey Clam Chowder. Hey, I had to bring something new to the table, right?
Red Potato Clam Chowder
4 slices Bacon, diced
1/4 cup White Onion
1/4 cup Brown Mushrooms
1/4 cup Celery
2 cups Red Potatoes
1 tablespoon Butter, or as needed
1 (8 oz) bottle Clam Juice, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Flour
2 cups Whole Milk
1 pint Half-and-Half
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 teaspoon dried Dill Weed
2 (6.5 oz) cans Minced Clams
Handful Italian Parsley
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Stack the bacon slices, then dice. Place bacon in a large, heavy sauce-pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain bacon slices on paper towels. Pour bacon drippings into bowl and reserve.
While the bacon cooks, peel and dice the onion and carrots. Set aside. Clean and dice the mushrooms. Set aside. Trim the ends from the celery, finely dice and set aside. Scrub the potatoes, then cut in half for small potatoes, or quarters for medium potatoes. The potatoes should be large enough that you know they are there, but small enough to fit on a soup spoon.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat in the same pot that was used for the bacon. Cook the onions in hot butter, stirring as needed until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add potatoes, 1/2 the bottle of clam juice, celery, carrots, mushrooms, 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and cook until vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes.
Melt 1/2 cup butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk flour into melted butter until smooth to create a blond roux. Whisk milk, half-and-half, and cream into flour mixture until smooth and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir vegetable mixture into the cream broth. Add bay leaves, thyme, and dill into the chowder. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until vegetables are tender and chowder is hot, 15 minutes.
Stir minced clams, and reserved bacon drippings into chowder. Cook until clams are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. While the clams heat, tear or chop parsley for garnish. Taste the chowder just before serving, adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper.
Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with parsley and bacon bits. Serve and enjoy. Great with warm Sourdough Bread.