Scrub the clams well, discard any that are gaping open or are much, much heavier than the others (they are dead and full of mud- see discussion under Manhattan Clam Chowder).
Put the clams in a pot with the celery leaves (about the tops of 1 bunch) a small chopped onion, cover and bring to a boil. Cut to the simmer, and as soon as the clams are well open, remove clams, strain broth, leaving the last 1/4 inch with sand in the pot to discard. You will need 1-1/2 quarts of strained broth.
Dice the 2 adductor muscles (round ones that hold the shell) and the tough lip of the clam fine. Cut the body in 4-6 pieces and save them in some broth. You can use soft-shell clams. Steam them, Discard the tough outer cover of the necks, rinse very well to remove sand, dice the necks fine and cut the bodies in 4. In all, you will need at least 1/2 lb. Of diced cooked clam.
Cut the salt pork into fine dice. Pour 1 qt boiling water over it. Let stand 2 min., and dump the water. This blanching gets rid of the extra salt. Fry the salt pork in a heavy pot to render the fat. You should have a little more than 1/3 cup of fat, if not add some bacon drippings or butter.
Add the diced onions and allow to soften, not brown
Add the flour and stir in, but don't allow to brown.
Add the stock. Bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon. It will be too thick. Add the boiled milk to thin it out the way you like it. Using the full qt will still leave you with a pretty thick soup. Add the fine diced or ground tough parts of the clam. Cooking doesn't tenderize them, but does get some flavor out (I think).
Cook the potatoes (small dice) in a minimum amount of water and simmer till soft. Drain and add to the soup. Save the water in case the soup is too thick.
Add the clam bodies and the broth. Simmer the soup a short while and season with salt and pepper, I like black, even if it does leave specks. If the soup is too thick, add some of the potato water.
More clams is better, but a dozen big chowders to a half gallon is a generous amount.
You can use water to make the clam stock, but white stock or fish stock gives a fuller flavor. I could use a fresh cod head and frame in the water, remove the clams when done, and simmer the cod 20 minutes and strain. Pick off the cod cheeks and nape. I'd eat them or put them in the soup. Never mind being fussy about all clam. Cod is pretty good in chowder, as is haddock. I make a cod chowder the same way, and smoked haddock, finnan haddie is amazing this way. Cream can be used in this soup, but I don't think it appropriate.
Serving Ideas: You want ships biscuit to serve with this.
Note: Tradition wants thick! I could live with half the amount of flour, but I know lots of people who are used to it thick as sauce and won't eat it any other way! Some people like saltine crackers, but the really hard ships biscuit is the sine qua non. Put it at the bottom of the bowl and pour the soup over it.
© 1996, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
Modified July 2007
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