I had high hopes for this recipe. Being one of my favorite chowders and all. (Ok, my super-duper favorite is Conch Chowder, but conch is hard to come by here.) Paolo chose this recipe, he was really excited, loving clams, loving New England. He also had never tried this and was super intrigued. Alas, I have to say it was a total disaster.
As I mentioned in my first Saveur Magazine post, I am going to prepare the recipes exactly as it states in the magazine. I’ve prepared this dish from another recipe of mine and it has been a complete success. I have eaten this dish a gazillion times too. The problem that I found with this recipe, is that it was extremely watery. A little red flag started waving wildly as I read the recipe calling for 6 cups of water to 2 cups cream. And no thickener. And, I would highly advise to place the clams in water to rid them of the sand, because I was straining and straining and straining. But, anyhoo, I proceeded to recreate it in complete trust and experimental nature.
Needless to say, my two co-judges were not pleased at all. Another recipe bust, another lunch that we ended up eating mainly bread and the sautéed porcini I had made as a side. But, tastewise it was delicious.
So, without further ado, the rankings:
Overall points: 4.6/10
Difficulty: Medium, as it has numerous steps and a wee bit time-consuming
Availability of ingredients: Easy, if you can’t find fresh clams, frozen will do in a cinch.
10 lb clams in the shell, preferably cherrystone, scrubbed
4 oz. thick-cut bacon, finely chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp finely chopped thyme leaves
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 lb. new potatoes, cut into 1/4″ cubes
2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Oyster crackers and hot sauce for serving
1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan over high heat. Add clams, and cover pan; cook until clams are steamed open, about 10 minutes (discard any that do not open). Remove from heat, and let cool. Remove clam meat from shells, and roughly chop; set aside. Pour cooking liquid from pan though a fine strainer into another bowl (you should have about 6 cups; if not, add enough water to make 6 cups); set aside.
2. Heat bacon in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until its fat renders and bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes. Add butter, thyme, onions, and bay leaves, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add reserved cooking liquid and potatoes, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low, and cook, stirring until potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add chopped clam meat and cream*; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; serve with crackers and hot sauce on the side. Serves 8.
* I suggest you lower the heat to minimum, if not your cream is going to curdle.
From my kitchen to yours,