I grew up in New England, but I didn't grow up eating clam chowder. Vermont is known more for maple syrup than sea food, probably because it doesn't border the ocean and has tons of maple trees. I got a chance to go on a short trip to Maine a couple years ago with my sister and dad, and one of the things I made sure to eat while I was there was some clam chowder. I loved it, and every once in a while I have cravings for some more.
Since periodic trips to Maine are out of the question until my husband graduates from school and gets an amazing job that makes us instant millionaires (Don't worry for my husband's sake. I don't actually think this could happen, but a girl can dream, right?) I soon figured out that I would have to make my own clam chowder if I wanted any. Since I figured this would involve cooking and opening real clams, (no craving is that strong) I had given up on the idea until I found this recipe a few years ago. Instead of using live clams, it used canned ones which made everything so much simpler. The key to the authentic flavor is clam juice. Who knew there was such a thing? Not me. Surprisingly, I've found it in most supermarkets where I've looked for it, both in Minnesota and here in Utah. They usually stock it near the tuna, which is also where I find the canned clams.
Besides the great authentic taste, which is a definite must, another thing I like about this recipe is that it is from Cooking Light, so despite being a creamy soup it's not loaded with cream. That means I can eat an extra bowl if I feel like it and not feel completely guilty. Just overly full and wanting a nap. If you like your soups thick, you might want to double the flour or replace it with cornstarch because as written the broth isn't overly thick.
New England Clam Chowder
4 (6 1/2-ounce) cans chopped clams, undrained
2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
4 bacon slices
1 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups cubed red potato
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup half-and-half
Thyme sprigs (optional)
Drain clams through a colander into a bowl, reserving liquid and clams. Combine clam liquid and clam juice.Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Crumble bacon; set aside. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Add clam juice mixture, potato, and next 4 ingredients (through bay leaf); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is tender.
Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until smooth; add to pan. Stir in clams and half-and-half. Cook 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Serve with bacon. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.
Yield: about 8 (1 1/4 cup) servings
Recipe Source: adapted from Cooking Light, Nov. 2007