New England Clam Chowder

We went clamming on a recent trip to Cape Cod. Well not really recent, but don't ask us where the last couple of months went. Stock it up to having very busy teachers' lives. 

Amy had never been clamming before, although Chris used to go all the time as a kid. The youngest of seven, Chris spent his summers roaming the beaches of the Cape with his brothers, sisters and cousins, and clamming was a favorite pastime, of course, as it involved mud and tools. He was (is?) that kind of kid.

Of course, it wasn't summer when we went. It was a rainy October Sunday (the picture above is us in Chatham the following afternoon) but we managed to get in about an hour of time with our pail and rake and scored two dozen clams of various sizes, from littlenecks to bordering on what we'd consider a quahog.

We kept them in a cooler overnight then created our own New England-style chowder with them once we were back in our home kitchen. It didn't come out quite as thick as we would have liked, but we were very happy with the flavors, especially how tender and fresh the clams tasted. Next time we might add more flour, or if anyone else has a suggestion on how to thicken it, let us know.

New England Clam Chowder

2 russet potatoes
2 dozen fresh clams
2 onions
2 bay leaves
10 cloves garlic, peeled
20 peppercorns
small bunch fresh parsley
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 cup water
4 ounces diced pancetta
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1/2 stick butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste

Cook the potatoes:
Peel, dice and boil the potatoes until they are tender. Then strain them into a bowl, reserving the water. 

Steam the clams: 
In a large pot put the clams, 1 unpeeled onion cut in half, the bay leaves, 8 of the garlic cloves, pepper corns, parsley, celery seed and water. Put a lid on the pot and place over medium-high heat. Steam the clams until they are all open, 5-7 minutes. Strain the pot into a large bowl, reserving the liquid. Remove the clams from the shells and chop them. 

Make the soup: 
Peel and chop the other onion and remaining 2 cloves of garlic. Wipe out the pot and return it to the stove over medium heat. Brown the pancetta in the pot. Then add the chopped onion, chopped garlic, chopped shallot, thyme and butter to the pot and cook until the onions are translucent. Then add the cooked potatoes and chopped clams. Stir in the flour at that point, and cook until the flour turns golden. Then add the liquids - 1/2 cup of the reserved potato liquid, the reserved clam broth, and the half-and-half. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and season with salt, pepper and/or a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, all to taste.

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