Hard to believe, but Memorial Day weekend is within sight. The line of traffic will begin its slow crawl over the bridges in a little more than a week from now. Avoiding that traffic is one of the joys of actually living here. My thoughts turn to menu rather than packing.
We always hope for a balmy, sun-drenched start to the summer season, but reality dictates that wind will pick up the chill from our water surround and promote the need for a sweatshirt. And for a bowl of hot clam chowder.
This recipe is adapted from a Cooks Illustrated recipe for chowder using canned clams. It’s really easy to put together; better if made the day before and reheated, and keeps well in a crock pot—which adds up to make it the perfect party food.
The original recipe makes six bowl-size servings. The following recipe has been doubled and will make twelve generous bowls or many more cups of chowder served as part of a buffet.
8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 large onions , diced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
8 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams; drain and reserve clam juice
2 cups water
6 medium waxy potatoes (about 3 pounds), medium diced
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups heavy cream (or Half and Half )
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Fry diced bacon in a heavy Dutch oven over medium-low heat until the bacon crisps.
2. Add the onions to the bacon. Sauté until softened.
3. Add flour; stir for about a minute until lightly colored. Gradually whisk in the combined liquid (bottled clam juice, reserved juice from clams and water).
4. Add the potatoes, bay leaves and thyme; simmer until potatoes are tender.
5. Add clams, cream, salt and ground pepper to taste. Simmer until heated through.
At this point, I let it cool a bit; transfer it to a 4-quart container and refrigerate it until the next day. On the day of the party, I slowly reheat the chowder in a Dutch oven on the stove. If I use Half and Half instead of heavy cream, I combine 2 TBS softened butter and 2 TBS flour and add the mixture to the hot chowder to thicken it somewhat. Check to see if you need additional salt and/or pepper. The chowder can then be transferred to a crock pot set on low. Set out a bowl of oyster crackers and you’re in business.