Makes 6 to 8 servings
For steaming the clams:
1½ tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, sliced
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3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 to 4 bay leaves
1½ cups dry white wine
30 large (15 to 20 pounds) Quahog clams, scrubbed
For the chowder:
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup diced Yukon Gold or russet potatoes
¼ cup olive oil, plus additional as needed for finishing
2 slices smoked bacon, cut into ¼-inch strips
1 large carrot, cut into ¾-inch pieces
2 medium celery stalks, cut into ¼-inch pieces (reserve leaves)
1 large Spanish onion, cut
into ¾-inch pieces
½ cup dry white wine
2 dried pequin chilies, crumbled, or a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, defrosted
¼ cup roughly chopped celery leaves
¼ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Maldon salt or other flaky sea salt
1. Steam the clams: In a large stockpot, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, bay leaves and wine. Bring to a simmer and add the clams. Cook covered, until the clams have opened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the clams to cool until they can be handled.
2. Remove clams from shells, discarding shells and reserving liquid in the pot. Remove the tough foot from each clam, chop finely and place in a bowl. Chop the remaining portion of each clam into medium dice, add to bowl and set aside. Strain cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a separate bowl or pitcher and set aside. You should have as much as 2 quarts.
3. Make the chowder: In a medium pot, combine cream, milk and potatoes. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender but still keep their shape, about 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside.
4. In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat olive oil until almost smoking. Add bacon and sauté until it colors slightly, about two minutes. Add carrot, celery stalks and onion, stirring until just tender, about eight minutes. Stir in clams, then add wine and chilies or pepper flakes. Allow wine to reduce until almost evaporated, then add 4 cups (or as desired) of the reserved clam broth.
5. Remove about half the potato mixture from its pot and purée in a food processor or blender. Add purée to the soup pot with vegetables and clams, along with remaining potato mixture. Bring back to a simmer and add corn. Cook until corn is tender but still has snap, about five minutes. Add half the celery leaves and half the parsley leaves, and mix well. Season to taste with salt and a squeeze of lemon.
6. To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish each with a bit of the remaining parsley and celery leaves, and if desired, a drizzle of olive oil.
Adapted by Mark Bittman, The New York Times, from April Bloomfield