Better Clam Chowder? recipes and techniques

Joined Dec 20, 2008
Our family has a large dinner after christmas (each family does on thing on Christmas).
I am generally the cook. Each year I have made clam chowder, so it is a bit of a tradition. However my Niece and her Fiance moved to a Pizmo Beach this past summer. On Turkey day, we were talking about this year's post xmas dinner, and did everyone want chowder, all said YES! My niece and her fiance informed me that they have now had the best clam chowder in the world at rest. in Pizmo Beach.

So the challenge is on, can I cook a clam chowder good enough to stand up against the niece and fience restaurant clam chowder? On a recent trip to San Francisco I had a some great clam chowder at Alioto's on the wharf, and while mine is good, Alioto's was memorable.

I am hoping some of the pros can help here.

New England clam chowder, medium to thickish, the clam favor must come through.

Currently my recipe includes:
fresh clams, (broth from clams), potatoes, onions, celery, bacon, parsley, a bit of fresh thyme, heavy cream, butter, salt and pepper, and a few dashes of Old Bay seasoning.
Also when cooking for a crowd (as in this dinner, use a 3lb 3oz can of SeaWatch Chopped Sea Clams and broth).

Can a couple of pros share their recipe and techinques for making a killer clam chowder? Many thanks in advance...
Joined Sep 16, 2009
There are different type of recipe on Clam Chowder such as crock pot clam chowder, low calorie chowder, clam 'n' corn chowder and etc.

Here are some recipe:

4 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pushed through a press
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) stewed tomatoes, chopped
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 cubes

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) vegetables broth
1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice

1 cans (6 1/2 ounces each) chopped clam, undrained.
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Joined Apr 17, 2009
The secret to my NE clam chowder is using bacon fat to make the roux. Fresh clams that you open with a knife goes without saying.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Lost me on that one partner. Why would you "open with a knife" instead of gently steaming open?

Heck, they're going to be cooked anyway. Plus, the clam broth resulting from the poaching court buillion and clams' juices would certainly have a place in the chowder.

Different strokes for different folks and all, but that one left me in the dust.

Joined Apr 17, 2009
Yes, you're correct, steaming would be best.
I was commenting on the recipe above that called for canned clams.

Plus, I have 100 littlenecks in my cooler about to become baked clams for the holidays. I had clam knife on the mind.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
I love it, it was because of my clam chowder that my wife asked me out on our first date 29 years ago. Also, I'm totally with BDL on this one, you absolutely need to gently steam open your clams,I mean this creates the entire base flavor of your chowder. I usually use a touch of white wine and throw in a bouquet garni for good measure (with the clams as they steam)

Edit to add Just read cheftoddmohrs reply we were both posting at the same time.
Joined Apr 17, 2009
Actually, now that I think about it, I do open clams with a clam knife for chowder. I open them over a large bowl and reserve the juice.

When you steam them, you get the dirt from the outside of the shell in your broth. Opening with a knife still gets some dirt from the inside of the clam, but I'm not cooking them in muddy water by steaming.

I make a Spanish "Clams in Green Sauce" where the whole clams are steamed and mixed with veloute. Each clam is scrubbed with a nail brush to remove the dirt that would wind up in the final sauce. I've had prep cooks try to take a shortcut and not scrub the clams. The white sauce turns grey from the mud on the clams.

Also, I can open them at a furious pace, having grown up on the water and worked many hours of prep in seafood.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Not to belabor, but I thoroughly wash my clams and pass the broth through multiple layers of cheesecloth.
Joined Apr 17, 2009
So the labor question becomes "scrubbing or opening", which takes longer for prep?

"Put two chefs in a kitchen, you'll get 5 opinions", that's what makes cooking such a great art form. There's no ONE way to make clam chowder, everyone's can be different. It's great.
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