Meg’s New England-Style Clam Chowder

I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING: More soup recipes??! But I LOVE making soup! I make it a lot. And of all the soups I make, my boys request this one over and over. It’s easy to make and I almost always have the ingredients on hand. This might not be a true New England recipe, but it’s creamy and it’s delicious and that’s what I’m calling it, so there.

Also? Please know that this is not as much of a recipe as it is an account of Here’s how I did it. Ingredients are in bold. As such, I suggest you read it the whole way through before starting to make it.

Next time I’ll try to remember to take photos…

Slice half a package of bacon into squares. Bacon Hack: By “Half” I mean a horizontal half – not half of the total number of slices. Whut??! Start at one end and cut across ALL the slices in squares, halfway across the length of the package. What? There is no rule that says you can’t do this. I checked. You’re welcome. Place bacon pieces into a stock pot and cook over medium to med-low heat till crisp, stirring every couple of minutes.

In between stirs, peel 2-3 potatoes (2 large, 3 if they’re smaller) and finely dice them (pieces no larger than a regulation Las Vegas die, preferably smaller). Place them into a saucepan with around 4-5 cups of chicken broth (or water + chicken bullion, and I’ll let you do the math on how much bullion to water because I just dumped some in). Bring to a boil and stir every so often. The potatoes will be soft in like 10 – 15 minutes, give or take. I know you’re not surprised that I didn’t time this.

By now – or very shortly – your bacon should be crisp. When it is, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it on a paper towel to drain. You’ll add it back to the soup later, so try not to eat it while it sits there. (If you expect to be weak in this area, maybe cook more bacon.) Leave the delicious bacon grease in the pot.

Take 2-3 ribs celery and chop them very fine. Do the same thing with one small onion. Throw these into the bacon grease and saute over medium-low heat, stirring every couple of minutes, for 5-7 minutes total, until they start to soften.

Are the potatoes soft yet? Once they are, you may – but are not required to – coarsely mash them by smooshing with a potato ricer just a few times. If you’re in a hurry, or don’t feel like having to wash a whole other utensil, then you may skip this step. It’ll still taste good.

Back to the stock pot. Add 2-3 Tbsp of flour and stir to soak up the grease. Then pour that broth with the potatoes right into the stock pot and stir to blend. Bring up to gentle boil. Season with black pepper. If you used low sodium bacon, you might want to add a bit of salt, but do proceed with caution. Optional seasonings here, if you wish to add them (but don’t go out and buy them if you don’t already have them in the house): a sprinkle of dried thyme, a small dash or two or Worcestershire sauce.

Open 2 cans of minced (or chopped) clams and dump them, juice and all, right into the pot. Cook for a couple of minutes, till clams are heated through. The chowder should be thick-ish (especially if you smooshed the potatoes). If it’s too thick, you can add some more water or chicken broth. If it’s not thick enough, have patience  – it’ll cook down. Next, add ½ – 1 cup of heavy cream (or half and half or milk or whatever you have).  Heat and stir, but don’t let it boil too hard.

Remember the cooked bacon?  Give it a coarse chop, then toss whatever you haven’t already eaten it into the pot along with some minced fresh parsley (or a smaller amount of dried parsley).  If you’re using fresh parsley, save some out so you can sprinkle on top of the bowls/cups when you serve it. Extra bonus points if you save out some some crumbled bacon to also use as garnish, along with a generous dash of freshly ground black pepper.

If you want to eat this without those tiny oyster saltine crackers, be my guest, but please understand I will have to act like I don’t know you the next time I see you in public. To my way of thinking, one of the primary reasons for clam chowder is to act as a Cracker Delivery System. (Just me??)