Corn and Clam Chowder

Pork and shellfish.  Together, forever.  A kosher nightmare.

Think about it for a moment…

Scallops wrapped in bacon.  Prosciutto wrapped prawns.  Pork and shrimp sui mai.  Clams casino.  Any kind of chowder.   Oysters Rockefeller with pancetta or slab bacon.  The list goes on.  Each one is better than the next.  Pork and shellfish is a match made in heaven, and almost any conceivable combination is a winner.

Being from New England, chowder of course has a special place in my culinary repertoire.  By definition, a chowder is a soup containing pork and potatoes.  It does not need to be thick, does not need to be laden with clams and does not need to come from New England.  Or Manhattan.  It just needs pork and potatoes.

New England clam chowder, in my opinion, is the only acceptable form of chowder.  Clams, corn, bacon and red potatoes – it’s the best way, and after trying this recipe, I think you may agree.  Pork and shellfish, together at last.  I love the taste of sweet corn infused in the chowder, and the slightly briny flavor and chewy texture of clams is a must.

It is, as are many of my recipes, complicated and multi-step.  This is a fancy restaurant recipe for a relatively simply soup.  You can easily find other easier recipes and save yourself a lot of time and work.  But I would be cheating you, and myself, by not giving you every ridiculous and painstaking detail.  The different is in the details, and the proof is in the pudding.  Or, in this case, chowder.  Results matter, and I want your soup to be as good as possible.  Or at least give the recipe a good read-though and entertain yourself with the thought of making this.  What will it taste it?  What will it smell like?  How does the consistency come to be?  Feel free to comment or ask questions, I would love to hear reactions!

Corn and clam chowder
Prep time:  30 min
cook time:  1 1/2 hours
Yield: 6-8 portions

Ingredients:

5 strips thick cut apple or hickory smoked bacon – good quality – cut into 1/4 inch peices
3 large red skinned potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, small diced
1 rib celery, small dice
1 medium carrot, small dice
1/2 bunch chives, fine chop
4 oz (1 stick) whole organic unsalted butter
1 cup flour
1 qt half and half
1/2 qt heavy cream
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole peppercorns
3 lb little neck, manilla or mahogany clams
2 cups dry white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
3 whole cobs of corn, cut in half
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp paprika
kosher salt
ground black pepper

Method:

Submerge the clams in ice water and let rest for a couple hours.  The clams relax and release any sand they may have accumulated.  Drain the water and wash them under running cold water.

Place a large, heavy bottom straight sided saute pan over high heat.  When pan is hot, add all the clams, the fresh thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns and white wine.  Let wine reduce by half, add the vegetable stock, cover and cook until all clams have opened.  Remove the clams from the pan, strain the liquid through a fine strainer lined with a coffee filter, or clean dish rag (you want to make sure to strain out any tiny bits of sand or grit).

Reserve the liquid.  Remove the meat from the clams, discard the shells, and rough chop the meat.  The meat from these clams is much more tender than that of quahogs, and doesn’t need to be fine chopped.

Place the ‘clam’ stock in a medium sized stock pot along with the half and half.  Add the corn and cook for 1/2 hour.  Remove the corn and strip them of the kernels.  Reserve the kernels and return the cobs to the stock.  Let steep for as long as possible.

In a small stock pot, begin cooking the bacon.  When almost fully rendered, but not yet crisp, add the onion, celery, carrot and potatoes..  Continue cooking until translucent.  Add the butter and continue to cook until fully melted and foaming.  Add the flour and stir until a thick paste forms.  Begin adding the reserved stock, 1 ladle at a time, stirring after each installment.  Continue in this fashion until the soup begins to loosen up.  Bring up to a simmer, which maximizes the thickening process.  Add the rest of the stock and bring to a simmer again.  The potatoes should be fully cooked.   Discard the corn cobs.  Season liberally with salt, pepper, the paprika and cayenne pepper.  Add the cream, the reserved corn and the chopped clams.  Check seasoning and re-season again if necessary.  Label soup into warm bowls, garnish with the chives and serve with oyster crackers.

Enjoy.

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