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Mar 7, 2009 11:46 AM

Creamy New England Chowdar


I am new to this site. I am a 64 year old male who loves to cook, for my wife,for my family and anybody else who will sit down at my table. I just really enjoy watching people eat what I have prepared.

Okay, now my question. I live in the northeast and love Chowdar as they call it. One of the best places I have ever found, was at The Inn At Mistic, in Conn. I have tried and tried to make it like they do but mine is always, well, just not right. Does anyone have a recipe for a real smooth and creamy pot of Clam Chowder? I have even tried to get their recipe, but had no luck. Can anyone help?


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  1. Whisper's
    Your key words were smooth/creamy... I found this recipe 6 or 7 years ago and have made it my # 1 Clam Chowder... My family (5 girls) always want a big pot when visting. If and when you make it, serve it in sourdough
    bread bowls,a great presentation... Here's the recipe

    12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
    2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
    2 cups medium-diced celery (4 stalks)
    2 cups medium-diced carrots (6 carrots)
    4 cups peeled medium-diced boiling potatoes (8 potatoes)
    1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 quart (4 cups) clam juice
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    2 cups milk
    3 cups chopped fresh chowder clams (1 1/2 pounds shucked clams)

    Melt 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, thyme, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 more minutes. Add the clam juice, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

    In a small pot, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and whisk in the flour. Cook over very low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in a cup of the hot broth and then pour this mixture back into the cooked vegetables. Simmer for a few minutes until the broth is thickened.

    Add the milk and clams and heat gently for a few minutes to cook the clams. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot.


    57 Replies
    1. re: yodaddy2

      that sounds really good and it has all the right elements. I can get good clams, even though I'm inland, but where do you accumulate four cups of clam juice.
      I know it's sold in little bottles...but I'd guess that there's a way to get "real" clam juice.
      Shucked shucked oysters? done while they're still alive?

      Or do you bake them until the shells open, save their juices and chop them then?

      (I'm sorry that these are such novice questions, but your recipe sounds so good.)

      1. re: shallots

        i want to know, too! that recipe sounds good.

        btw, does anyone else throw a splash of frank's hot sauce on top of their chowder?

        1. re: alkapal

          I do a splash of cream sherry, especially when I get it out.

        2. re: shallots

          Most restaurants use the canned clam juice: it comes in big cans, the little bottles are crazy expensive. Probably a buck or two for a couple of quarts. I can't imagine how many clams you would need to get a quart of juice, probably 1,000!

        3. re: yodaddy2

          How many servings would you suggest this is? We're on Cape Cod right now eating clams and lobster and cod and... constantly. Craving a real chowda --- we're from NoCal so we're lovin' the real thing. Thanks.

          1. re: c oliver

            I'm from Modesto. Our favorite place to visit was Monterrey. I got the printed recipe for Old Fisherman's Grotto Clam Chowder as a gift from my husband. Shortly after he got it, they realized they shouldn't be selling the recipe so they stopped that and started selling the stuff in cans. It is the BEST!!!

              1. re: Phurstluv

                This was sent to me by a friend who worked out in Monterrey.


                1 carrot, diced (1)
                1 medium onion, diced (1 1/2)
                1 potato, diced (2)
                1 stalk of celery, diced (2)
                1/2 lb minced bacon (3/4 lb.)
                1/4 lb margarine (i used butter, 1 1/2 cub, es)
                3 cloves fresh garlic, minced (5)
                1/2 qt clam juice (i used 3- 8 oz bottles)
                1 1/2 cup flour (2 1/4 c.)
                2 cup milk (3 c.)
                2 cup heavy whipping cream (3 c.)
                2 cup half-and-half (3 c.)
                1/2 tsp black pepper (1 tsp., don't salt!)
                1/2 lb chopped clams (fresh, frozen or can) (3 lb. can)
                1/2 tsp clam base (optional, available in most gourmet

                It is so close to mine, I just never tried it. But she said this was the original recipe served I guess in bread bowls. Never been don't now. She said she got this years ago and swears by it. I am sure that has been copied over and over but she claims it is true. No clue

                1. re: kchurchill5

                  Interesting, another chowder with carrots!! It is probably very good, but it has a lot of flour & cream in it. What are the numbers in ( )?

                  Perhaps while we're on our roadtrip up to Half Moon Bay next week, we can stop in Monterey & check out some chowder! We're staying in Pismo Beach for four days, so I think I'll get my clam fix there, but I can't be sure!! Not staying in the Monterey area this year, tho we have in the past.

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    That recipe reads to me as a classic faux chowder for landlubbers. It has a relative paucity of clams and clam broth (2 cups of liquid and only 8 oz of clams) compared to fat (a whopping 6 cups of milk, heavy cream & half-half AND 1 stick of margarine! AND 8 oz bacon - there's as much bacon as clams!) and highly flavored seasonings. I have no doubt it would sell well.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      Somehow we have lost the "New England" part of the original posting and moved into every regional variation including green pepper and carrots. New England chowders are a simple and delicious food that celebrates the ingredients that are native to this area.

                      I am sure that c_oliver will post back about dinner and the eyes of the clams staring at her during preparations!

                      1. re: smtucker

                        My first clam chowder recipe was from a very small little hole in the wall restaurant in NE. It had a small amount of carrots. I don't like peppers, never have. But it did have a little carrot, diced fine. You could still taste every clam and the flavor. It is still my favorite. He did thicken slightly not much, but a little. I still love this the best. He was born and raised there, was a fisherman and ran his own seafood shack. That was pretty authentic to me. And he was packed daily.

                      2. re: Karl S

                        "That recipe reads to me as a classic faux chowder for landlubbers."

                        Indeed. I was walking through Faneuil Hall once and saw someone carrying a tray that had a bowl of chowder that still held the shape of the ladle on top. I believe I shuddered.

                        A good rule of thumb here in New England is to avoid any restaurant that has the spellings "chowdah" and/or "lobstah" on the menu: invariably, the food will suck.

                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          Good rule :)

                          I was thinking that people interchanged *creamy* with *thick*. Obviously what I made was creamy since half the liquid was cream. But it was in no way thick. I can think of no other dish where one would make that segue.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            chowder should not resemble mashed potatoes with bits of clam, thats a good rule of thumb. : )

                    2. re: kchurchill5

                      Has anyone heard of Shell's Seafood Rest? The only thing superb was the clam chowder. This recipe is as close as you can get to the absolute most authentic recipe....and guess what... it's the bacon that throws it over the top..most people don't know that.... But everyone knows bacon cooking is the best smell ever..My Dad had three seafood rest. in Florida back in the day..good recipes are where it's at.

                      1. re: PsychoSarge

                        where in florida? names? (i'm from fort myers).

              2. re: yodaddy2

                Another question please. I don't like thick clam chowder. Yours doesn't sound thick. Is that right? If I want it thinner --- anyone chime in here please ---- should I increase the clam juice, decrease the milk, what??? Using fresh shucked clams and definitely want to taste them :)

                Edit: Or should I just eliminate thickener entirely?

                1. re: c oliver

                  Eliminate the thickener. I know it's a contentious subject, but flour DOES NOT belong in New England clam chowder. If simmered long enough, the chowder will thicken just enough on it's own. It's a soup, not a side dish.

                  1. re: hilltowner

                    Thanks for the advice. Whenever I see a bowl of chowder that you can stand a spoon up in, I think yuck. I rarely order it for that reason. I'm thinking lobster rolls and chowder. Really, really ODing on the Cape Cod bounty. Great fish tacos with cod for dinner last night and then had leftover cod for sandwiches today. It will be hard to go back to the Left Coast.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      C- make the spaghetti and clams as discussed in another thread since it is so easy to get good littlenecks.

                      1. re: cassoulady

                        Veggo said to ask Scargod to fix that. That his are really good. Yum, yum.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          i made it again last night, so good!

                    2. re: hilltowner

                      The only proper thickeners are the potatoes and dairy - and ships biscuits or common crackers. No flour, no roux, no cornstarch - they are only useful for restaurants to hold chowders over heat for a long time without curdling (milk solids curdle when held over heat, after all). As for pork of choice: salt pork is canonical, bacon is heterodox and if used should not have a heavy hickory flavor to obscure the flavor of the sea.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        Oh, yay, I was hoping you'd weigh in. Wanna join us??? I have a package of diced pancetta but also have plain bacon. Would you recommend I seek out salt port and, if not, which pork product would you recommend I use. As always, thanks.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Use pancetta before the bacon - pancetta is unsmoked, and thus purer.

                          1. re: Karl S

                            I think salt pork does a better job.

                            1. re: Phurstluv

                              I agree that salt pork is best, but if you don't have it on hand and you only have bacon and pancetta, pancetta comes ahead of bacon in the triage list of choices.

                              Now, modern salt pork is not quite the same thing as chowders of old used. Pickled pork was more common (especially on ships) then. Today, the higher quality salt pork is dry-salted salt pork, which is a bit harder to find in some areas. I think if you can compare dry-cured vs brined salt pork and see which you prefer, you'd have the best choice.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                I assume my Nana had the brined salt pork available, not from ships, but in the local A&P outsideo f Providence.

                                1. re: Phurstluv

                                  Touche. But, of course, the quality of our pork in general has declined with the fading of the lard pig in favor of leaner breeds of swine, and that has affected the quality of the fat even in salt porks, hence my recommendation to taste and compare. (Niman Ranch offers good dry-cured salt pork, and it's not terribly expensive.)

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    You are so right, my friend. I will search out the N-M variety, tho I think I can readily find brined salt pork in my area (SoCal).

                          2. re: Karl S

                            I use a little flour, usually not as much as I like mine a bit thinner, but I do use some. The amount really depends on how many clams and how much I am making. I like to use pancetta if I can but I have used bacon as well.

                            1. re: kchurchill5

                              Why do you --- or anyone for that matter --- use flour? It does seem like the ingredients sans flour will do the job.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I agree, I'm not sure why flour would be in it, other than as a thickener, my family recipe has no flour in it, and it is certainly creamy, but not so thick as to stand a spoon up in it! It is a soup, after all.

                                But the Legal Seafood recipe has 3 tbsp of flour in it, added with the aromatics, before the liquid, therefore, as a type of roux.

                                  1. re: Phurstluv

                                    I don't like it that thick but just a bit thick. I tend to find it without anything is a bit thin. So I go in between. Corn starch or flour works. I also used all heavy cream once and when I tasted it, it seems to rich so I added a little veggie broth, it tasted great but to me a little thin, so I added a little flour with the sherry to lightly thicken.

                                    Just depends

                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                      De gustibus non est disputandum, but some of the issue of thinness is learned expectation about chowder - I just encourage people to let go of those expectations and experience the greater sea-flavored purity (in flavor *and* texture) of the older forms of chowder that most people have not experienced. So it's one of my hobby-horses from the New England/Boston boards.

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        I make a clam chowder with no cream and love it. I also like the creamy one. I can eat it thin or thick but with the cream I just don't like it too thin and I don't think the little amount of flour I add changes the flavor.

                                        But I like chowders lots of ways, not just one way and I make them all different. It really depends.

                                      1. re: JEN10

                                        Sure, my pleasure, tho it is not a New England Chowder, it is a RI chowder, best made a day ahead, and quahogs are a must, tho you certainly can use canned.

                                        Ducharme Family Quahog Chowder
                                        (Rhode Island style Clam Chowder)

                                        Makes about 12 servings

                                        2 oz. salt pork, finely diced
                                        1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
                                        4 cups Idaho potatoes ( about 1 ¼ lbs), cut into ½ inch dice
                                        2 cups chopped clams, quahogs (hard shelled) preferred
                                        2 cups clam juice, from clams or bottled
                                        Water to cover
                                        Salt & freshly ground pepper
                                        1/3 of a can of condensed Campbell’s tomato soup

                                        In a large Dutch oven, render fat from the salt pork over medium hi heat. Before it browns, add onions. Sautee until softened & translucent. Add the potatoes, clams, clam juice and water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer, about a half hour or until potatoes are done. Season with salt & pepper.

                                        At this point, Nana added the tomato soup, about a tablespoon at a time, just to give it a light color, not to add any tomato flavor. This can be optional.

                                        Best if made a day ahead, then covered & refrigerated. Next day, reheat gently.

                                        Hope you enjoy it, it is a little lighter than the thick creamy style chowders and has been in my family for more than 4 generations now.

                                        1. re: Phurstluv

                                          Thank you I will give it a try!!!

                                          1. re: JEN10

                                            Great, hope you enjoy it, and do let me know!!!

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Yeah, I thought that was what I was saying. You're preaching to the choir here.

                                2. re: hilltowner

                                  The potatoes in the recipe provide enough thickening.

                                3. re: c oliver

                                  eliminate thickeners in every soup.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    roux is so old school, and unless you're making vats of "chowdah" that need holding in a warmer, totally unnecessary. without it, soups and chowders all have a cleaner, fresher, truer flavor. i agree they are less stable, but a gentle cooking temp manages that.

                                    chowder also doesn't have wine or sherry added. it's a very mild tasting soup. i know people like to gussy stuff up, but certain dishes become classic for a reason. chodwer is insanely easy to make, but folks always seem to want to turn it into something complicated.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Praise the lord (lower case)!!!!!! Just reread ALL of this thread to make my shopping list. I'd mentally eliminated all the hoo-ha (?sp) and thanks for slamming the door for me. Easy it will be. Off to the fish market in Sandwich for lobster and clams (fixing lobster rolls and chowder for dinner tonight).

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Okay, my very happy postmortem. The chowder got rave reviews. Especially from Scar-woman who said "I don't LIKE clam chowder and ate this to be polite. It's wonderful." And she intends on having leftovers this evening.

                                        The non-recipe (gleaned from so many of your posts) was 4 oz. pancetta sauteed in a little olive oil and butter, removed the pancetta and sauteed the onion (half a medium) til soft but not brown. Then added in the cubed (rather on the small side) potatoes (1#) and the pancetta and 16 oz. clam juice. I cooked that covered for 10 minutes til the potatoes were done. At that point I turned the heat off and let sit til dinner time. I then chopped the Quaihogs (did I just misspell that?) and added those and the cream (NOT the ultra-pasteurized) to the pot. Brought it to a nice strong simmer for five plus minutes. Had intended to add a little butter at the end but forgot it. This was CLAM CHOWDER with all caps not a vegetable soup with clams in it :)

                                        As usual, I want to thank everyone for their help with this. At times like this I know I have a bunch of *neighbors* who are great cooks who help me through these things. I continue to be in your debt.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          You are most welcome. Delightful report on your New England quahog* clam chowder.

                                          * Pronounced KO-hog.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Forgot to mention that I used slightly less than a quart of clams and 16oz. of cream. So a pretty heavy concentration of clams to liquid.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              This was incredible clam chowder! I have never had so many clams versus potatoes in my life!
                                              Unless Catherine said this elsewhere, I talked her into adding a fresh ear's-worth of corn. I am full of advice (among other things).
                                              BTW, we did cook steaks one night...

                                              1. re: Scargod

                                                Oops, Scar, I for got to mention the taters. I was trying so hard to remember amounts of everything.

                                                You didn't mention that along with the ribeyes, we had gazillions of salad vegetable and broc and cauli. from your garden Oh and the pozole. What else?

                                                And if you stop call me Cat, I'm gonna figure you don't love me anymore :(

                                              2. re: c oliver

                                                My non-recipe, learned from a friend when living in western NY, is the same but with thyme and a liberal hand with the pepper mill. When out of both time and thyme, I have used ground summer savory, which is equally good.

                                      2. re: yodaddy2

                                        A add a little sauteed diced bacon and I also like a few tablespoons of sherry and I usually add a bay leave as the stock simmers. Dash of hot sauce optional and a dash or worcestershire also is a nice touch.

                                        Otherwise, just like my recipe. A favorite here as well.

                                      3. My recipe is similar to Yodaddy's with a few exceptions. I'd use 1 cup whole milk along with one cup of cream, I use corn starch (or tapioca) as a thickening agent instead of flour, and I'd add about half a cup of cooked chopped bacon and half a cup of dry white wine (either Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Chenin Blanc). Once you add the cream you never want to bring it back to a full boil, keep it just below the boiling point. If you don't want bits of bacon to show in the final dish just use the rendered fat after crisping the bacon bits (but cook the bacon very slowly and don't let it burn).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: todao

                                          I agree as to bacon--there was always a bacon flavor in the ones I grew up on in the 1950's

                                        2. Here is another good one that I have been using for decades. It is adapted from the original recipe of the now defunct Hungry Tiger seafood restaurants in California.

                                          Clam Chowder

                                          2 tablespoons butter
                                          1/3 cup diced onion
                                          1/3 cup diced leek, white part only
                                          1/3 cup diced celery
                                          1/3 cup diced green pepper
                                          2 tablespoons flour
                                          1 quart water or fish stock
                                          Salt, white pepper
                                          1 small bay leaf
                                          1/4 teaspoon thyme
                                          1/3 cup diced uncooked potato
                                          2 tablespoons dry white wine
                                          1/2 cup drained chopped clams (1 7 1/2-ounce can or fresh)
                                          1/2 cup warm heavy cream

                                          Melt butter in a saucepan, add onion, leek, celery, and green pepper and cook until tender but not browned. Stir in flour and cook over very low heat a few minutes. Add water or fish stock (if canned clams are used the clam liquor can be used for part of the liquid), salt and pepper to taste, the bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil and add potato and wine. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until potato is soft. Add clams and simmer 5 minutes longer. Remove bay leaf and stir in warm cream just before serving.

                                          Note: This chowder recipe makes 6 a first course. For a meatier chowder to serve as an entr6e for supper or lunch, use 1 cup chopped clams.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Sam D.

                                            Thanks for all the help. I will try both and let you know who won the test contest.


                                          2. Hi whispers,
                                            I make a big pot of chowda once in a while. My recipe uses a light (as in color, not calories) butter/flour roux for thickening. Cornstarch will work, but I feel it will not retain its thickness after cooling or with leftovers.
                                            The recipe is also quite basic and simple - you can tweak it as you go on (as in bay leaves, thyme, other veggies, etc). Again its a large pot, so half or quarter ingredients as you think.

                                            2qts chopped clams
                                            1qt clam juice
                                            12 oz bacon, chopped small
                                            1lb onion chopped fine
                                            2lb potato cubed
                                            2 1/2 qt whole milk
                                            1C heavy cream
                                            salt & pepper
                                            butter and flour for roux (maybe 2 C flour and 2 sticks butter)

                                            I usually use canned clams and large tin of clam juice from the grocery.

                                            cook bacon on med until crispy and fat is rendered
                                            remove bacon
                                            add onions, sweat (do not brown) until soft
                                            add clams and clam juice
                                            bring to boil
                                            add potatoes and bacon
                                            return to boil then lower to simmer until potatoes almost done

                                            Meanwhile, separately, mix milk and cream and warm gently (do not boil)
                                            Also make roux separately - melt butter in a pan, add flour until well incorporated, cook slightly (do not brown)

                                            Add milk/cream mix to the clam pot, stir well.

                                            Place about 1C of roux in a mixing bowl, add about 1C of clam broth, whisk until slurried, stir back into soup to thicken. Repeat until desired thickness is obtained. Salt & pepper to taste. There you have it.

                                            I know, the last thickening part sounds complicated, but its not really.
                                            Its very similar to yodaddy2's method (generally, the entire recipe is similar to yodaddy2s). Sometimes you may have too much or too little roux for the amount you're thickening. This way, your roux is added bit by bit until you get what you want

                                            1. Being that you picked an excellent soup to being with, at a fine establishment near my hometown, I had to respond. I am a little surprised that the Inn didn't agree to share their recipe with you.

                                              It has been many years since I've been there, so I will not try to recall that specific soup by memory. And looking over the rest of the posts, it seems chowder, like barbecue, has some very ardent fans, (usually New Englanders), and many have very specific tastes on how creamy chowder should be made. I am quite certain, being a native from CT, that unless it was Manhattan Chowder, which is the tomato based one, a clam chowder would not have carrots & peppers in it.

                                              If you're looking for a super creamy, cream based clam chowder, look no further than the Legal Seafood Restaurants' recipe. I have their cookbook, circa 1988, I'm sure the recipe is the same, and I'll be happy to type it out for you, the website doesn't have any recipes on it.

                                              I have my grandmother's authentic RI chowder recipe, that came from my grandfather's family from the Quebec region, originally. RI chowder is considered <<clear>>, no cream and no tomato. But our family recipe has campbell's tomato soup in it, and it gives it a light red color and creamy taste. Only ingredients other than a couple of spoonfuls of the condensed soup was salt pork, onions, russet potatoes, fresh quahogs, and water. They used quahogs b/c they're bigger and have more flavor. And they always made it a day ahead, for every summer reunion and left it on the stove all night. No refrigerator big enough. Had it the next day and it was always delicious. Be happy to type this one out for you if interested, as I need a hard copy for a clambake we're doing this summer. Good luck finding your chowder!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                                I had forgotten about this post until just now. I am still looking for that recipe from the Inn at Mystic. From all the post on this subject, I guess it's safe to say, what ever you want to put into it is okay. I guess what I am looking for is a chowder that is creamy and smooth, not one that you can stand a spoon up in. Most soups I have tried came out a little on the watery side. Which is fine, but not what I am looking for. The Inn's soup is also , it seems very white in color. Mine comes out kind of off white. I don't know, just not like their soup. I guess you would have to have eaten it there to know what I am talking about. Since you live near by Phurstluv, maybe you know what I mean.