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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pasta Neck Clam Chowder (New England Style)

One of Mike's favourite soups is New England Clam Chowder and it has been on my list of recipes to make for a long time.   When I checked in with the fish monger at the Atwater market early this week,  he confirmed that he had a fresh batch of Pasta Neck Clams from Maine - so I was ready to give it a try.  

For a first attempt, this soup was pretty good.  The flavour was excellent, but because the clams were small, I needed to up the quantity I initially used (you can also use half fresh and half canned clams to keep the cost down).  I also used a combination of milk and evaporated milk instead of cream which created a very surprising creamy and smooth texture.  Finally, a whole grated baking potato thickened the broth a little too much, so next time, I will grate half the potato and add the other half in small cubes to give it more texture.  Even with the few adjustments that needed to be made, it was a huge hit.

Mike helped me make this and it was fun to do it together.

You will need:  For 4 servings 

  • About 2kg - 2.5kg(4.5 - 5lbs) of fresh clams (or combination of fresh and canned clams - keep clam juice)
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) of white wine (we used a fruity wine - Domain Rieflé, 2008, Alsace grand cru, pinot gris)
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut in small pieces
  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 1 can (370ml) of evaporated milk
  • 250ml (1 cup) of milk, 2% or whole
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 generous tsp of salted herbs (optional)
  • 1 medium baking potato (180g), peeled, 1/2 grated and 1/2 cut in small cubes (do this just before adding to soup or the potato will brown);
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Place a large pot (with cover) over medium high heat and add white wine (80ml - 1/3 cup) and 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, simmer until reduced by half (about 3 minutes);
  2. Add the clams and cover pot.  Cook for about 8 minutes or until clams have opened (if you have a large quantity of clams, it will be easier to do this in batches - the bottom clams will have difficulty opening if they are weighted down - just make sure to keep all the released clam juice);
  3. It is important to keep all the clam juice that has been released by the opened clams as this will be the flavour base of the soup;
  4. Strain clams and broth and set aside.  Discard any unopened clams. When cooled down a bit, remove meat from the shells and reserve in fridge (they will be added back into the soup only just before serving in order to avoid over cooking);
  5. While clams are cooking, heat oil in a medium size pot over medium heat and add bacon pieces (3 slices).  Cook for a few minutes to render fat and add diced onion (1 medium) and diced celery (1 stalk).  Cook to soften for about 10 minutes;
  6. Add reserved clam broth making sure to strain it again.  If you are using canned clams, strain and add juice to pot. Set aside clam meat to be added at the end of the cooking process.  
  7. Scrape the bottom of the pot well to blend the vegetable/wine flavour with the broth.  Add 3 more sprigs of fresh thyme and torn bay leaf;
  8. Add evaporated milk (1 can - 370ml ), whole or 2% milk (1 cup - 250ml), salted herbs if using (1 generous tbsp), grated potato (1/2) and cubed potato (1/2) and bring to simmer.  Cook until cubed potato is tender - about 10 minutes (the grated potato will help naturally thicken the broth - use a baking potato as it breaks down quickly - if ever it gets too thick, add a little water);
  9. When ready to serve, remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs and add clam meat just to heat through.  Serve with crackers and the same wine used in the soup!
  10. Enjoy!

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