There is nothing like a rich, thick clam chowder. It is creamy, soothing, and comforting. It warms us and fills us up. The flavors are mild yet satisfying. Clam chowder comes in many basic types: New England clam chowder that is white and creamy, Manhattan clam chowder, that has a tomato based broth, Rhode Island clam chowder, which has a clear broth, Outer Banks clam chowder, which has a clear broth and potatoes, onions and bacon, and Minorcan clam chowder, which is a specialty of Florida. Minorcan clam chowder has a tomato base with hot chilies added.
Most people prefer either New England or Manhattan clam chowder. A nice plus is the nutrition found in clam chowder. It is a great source of zinc, vitamins B12, D, C, and A, copper, iron, selenium, protein, manganese, tryptophan, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. All of these vitamins and minerals are necessary for good health. Once thought of as food for the poor, clam chowder has come into its own and is served almost anywhere.
You can use any kind of clam in clam chowder. The important thing is that they are fresh. Most fish markets sell live clams. You want to put them in an open container in the refrigerator so they can breathe. Use quahogs (pronounced CO-hogs), little necks, cherrystones, pismos, butter clams, longnecks, manilas, razors, or giant geoducks (pronounced gooey-ducks). As long as they are fresh, you are good to go.
Traditional clam chowder requires more than clams. Bacon or salt pork, onions, celery, carrot, bay leaves, thyme, flour, potatoes, parsley, and cream are usually added to this delectable soup. Seasoned with salt and pepper, the taste of the clams should come through, enhanced by the flavor and texture of the other ingredients.
The bacon should be cooked until crisp, then the onions, celery, and carrots are sautéed in the bacon grease. Season everything with salt and pepper. Add in the thyme and bay leaves. Mix in the flour and let everything cook for a few minutes. The potatoes should be peeled and diced. Add them to the mixture and stir in some clam juice from cooking the clams. Let everything boil and then cook it at a simmer until the potatoes are tender. The cream is added at this point, and warmed, and then the clams are finally added. Season as needed.
What you should get is a rich, flavorful clam chowder that is perfect with crusty bread for dipping. This is a simple soup to make. With practice, you will gain more confidence with it. Creamy soups like this can be intimidating at first, even if they turn out to be easy.
Little clams should be left whole when put into the chowder, while larger clams can be roughly chopped. You should be able to enjoy both the chewy parts of the clam as well as the tender parts of the clam.
Serve the soup as soon as it is done. You can add a little dab of butter and herbs to the top for garnish if you wish.
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