Recipe courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA.
• ¼ pound bacon, cut in very small pieces
• 3 medium (¾ pound) potatoes, cubed
• 2 (8 ounce) cans minced clams and their liquid
• 2 (8 ounce) bottles clam juice
• 2 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced
• 2 Tablespoons flour
• 1 cup light cream
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon white pepper
1. In a black cast iron pot, fry bacon until crisp and brown.
2. Add onions, potatoes, clams and clam juice; simmer until potatoes are done.
3. Do not brown.
4. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Mix flour in a little cold water and stir into chowder.
6. Add cream and stir.
7. Adjust seasonings.
8. Serve in a warm bowl.
If you want to go down the food anthropology chowder rabbit hole, I would recommend The Book of Chowder by Richard J. Hooker. It includes recipes, in chron. order, from 1751 to 1972. Apparently, traditionally, chowder was thickened using crackers. I usually use a beurre manier (flour and butter mashed up together) or pull out a few of the potatoes and mash them up and put them back in.
Basic recipe, which I use for fish chowder, clam chowder, or mixed seafood (fish and scallops, usually):
Some sort of oil to saute the onions and celery. Bacon fat, duck fat to bring it a little closer to kosher, or olive oil if I'm feeling dietish. Pull out the bacon before proceeding if you have to render it and keep it for including later or as a personal snack.
Saute 1 onion and about 3 ribs of celery in about 2 tbs. fat and a pinch of salt until they are softened.
Deglaze with sherry or white wine, about 1/4 cup and boil it down a bit.
Add about 3 cups of liquid--fish stock if you have it, juice from canned clams, chicken broth, etc. (If you can get a fish head from the market, fish stock is easy to make. Just like chicken stock but with a fish head and maybe some shrimp shells and legs from the freezer if you keep everything for such exigencies like I do.)
Add diced potatoes, from about 1 large russet potato or 2-3 med. red. I leave the skin on. Add some black pepper and thyme and a bay leaf.
Cook the potatoes, onions, and celery for about 20 minutes once you achieve a slow boil. Check your salt level and add if necessary.
Add ~1 cup cream, 1 cup frozen corn, and a beurre manier (1 tbs. flour to 1tbs. butter). Bring this back up to a simmer and cook for about 5-10 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Then add the fish/clams/etc. and some fresh tarragon and then cook for about 5 minutes more, to avoid overcooking the seafood. Finally, add the earlier cooked bacon and some chopped parsley and serve.
Disclaimer: this is not a super-traditional super-thick chowder. If you want that, you have to add more starch. You can do this the way you do a gravy--take out some of the hot stock, add a couple tbs. of cornstarch/flour/arrowroot and shake it up in a SCREW-TOP jar and return to the pot. I emphasize screw-top jar because of various Thanksgiving kitchen scalding explosions.
here's a recipe reportedly by Jasper White, a lodestar of NE regional cooking;
A couple of notes: this is a very rich recipe, due to the cream, which I would normally not want too much of if I have really good clams and clam broth for a proper taste of the sea. If you are tempted to substitute milk, be aware that milk will curdle if held over heat too long (that's why restaurants use rouxs and other heretical thickeners in their chowders, to keep them from curdling - but at the cost of obscuring the taste of the sea). Of course, if you want to go towards a southeastern New England style of chowder, you'd emphasize the clam broth and ditch the dairy.
Also, the recipe specifies bacon. American bacon has a very distinct hickory aroma that can also obscure the taste of the sea. Salt/pickled pork (in other words, pork that is salt/brine-cured rather than smoked) is more classic to NE clam chowder.
Here is a non-traditional version that I adapted from Anna Michelle Jordan in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Her version had more cream and fewer potatoes, as I recall, it was too rich for our taste. This is pretty rich as it is. If you don't have access to Costco chopped clams, you can substitute those annoying little cans from the supermarket, but the value ratio (clams to juice) is much worse, and it will cost a lot more to make a big pot of soup. If you want something more traditional, you could leave out the bacon, substitute salt pork, and of course, leave out the chipotle powder and smoked salmon. You can use any type of potato, I never bother to peel them. Russet style potatoes will make the soup a little thicker and "starchier", but I probably like it best with Yukon golds or red boiling potatoes.
Smoky Clam Chowder
3 bacon slices, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 t. chipotle powder
6 potatoes, about 3 pounds, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large (Costco) can chopped clams, drained, juice reserved
2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup hard smoked salmon, broken in small pieces
Fresh ground black pepper
Fry bacon in 5 qt soup kettle on medium heat until crispy, remove bacon to paper towels.Cook onion and celery in bacon fat until very soft and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Season lightly with salt and add the chipotle powder.Add the diced potatoes, clam juice from clams, half and half, and enough water to barely cover the potatoes (if necessary) and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer about 15 minutes until potatoes are tender. Stir in the clams, cream, and salmon and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste, correct for salt, add black pepper, and serve with crispy bacon added at the table.
Well, this is one of my husbands favorite meals, so we usually get 2 dinners for the 2 of us. I think if you used both cans from Costco (they come in 2-packs) and a large soup kettle, you could generously feed 15 women, especially if you also have salad, or bread, or sandwiches.