The week before this post, I asked Jedd, my younger son, what he wanted for dinner. He answered ‘clam chowder soup’. It was a great answer because it is December and even in Houston, it is cold in the mornings and evenings. Perfect nights for clam chowder soup.
There are two very popular kinds of clam chowder soup. There is the white, creamy kind which is often called New England Clam Chowder soup, and there is the red, tomato-based one which is called Manhattan Clam Chowder soup. I favor the creamy, white kind and so that is what I picked to cook.
I researched the recipe, made changes to tailor to our preferences and what ingredients are available and proceeded to add it to our grocery list. When my older son saw me unpacking the ingredients, he asked what it was for and when I told him, he said he wanted to make it. This was getting better and better!
For the recipe, I picked one that uses canned clams. I am giving the option to use fresh clams. In my case, I just did not want the pressure of having to look for fresh clams and cooking it right away. The canned clams version turned out delicious.
To make it a little more filling for dinner, we served it with oyster crackers that have been flavored with ranch dressing and baked in the oven. My son made crispy, crumbled bacon and I diced up green onions to add more color and flavor. Parsley can also be used if you prefer. It turned out perfect and even my husband who does not like seafood ate it for lunch the next day and liked it.
Homemade New England Clam Chowder Soup
New England clam chowder (also known as Boston Clam Chowder) is creamy soup due to the use of milk or cream, which gives it that recognizable white color. It's thick and made with clams, potatoes, onions, leeks, celery and at times includes salt pork.
- 6 slices bacon diced
- 1 cup onions diced
- 1 cup leeks sliced
- 1 cup celery sliced
- 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup red potatoes peeled and diced
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup clam juice can buy this bottled at the canned fish section
- 1 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp ground blak pepper
- 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
- 4 pcs bay leaves
- 2 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 3 cans clam diced or 2 cups fresh live clams
- 4 cups half and half
- 2 pcs green onions sliced thinly
- 12 oz bag of oyster crackers
- 1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp dill weed
- 3/4 cup salad oil
If steaming fresh clams
scrub clams to get rid of any grit
Bring 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup chicken broth and 6 cloves garlic to a boil. Add clams, cover and steam for 6 minutes until they open up.
If a few clams do not open, throw them out. Drain clams, scoop out meat and chop.
Heat stove to medium low. Drizzle olive oil to the bottom of a large pot. Add bacon pieces and cook until crispy.
Remove cooked bacon and place on a paper-towel lined plate.
Increase heat to medium. Add onions, celery and leek and saute in bacon fat about 3 to 4 minutes. Add flour and stir and cook for about 1 minute.
Add potatoes, chicken broth, clam juice, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves and Tabasco sauce. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.
Add half and half along with chopped clams. Stir well.
Increase heat to medium and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often.
Season with salt and pepper if needed.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix oil and ranch dressing in a ziploc bag. Add crackers and shake to fully coat the crackers.
Pour out in a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
Note: the oyster crackers can be baked while the soup is simmering in order to save time.
How to Serve
Serve clam chowder into bowls and top with bacon, oyster crackers and green onions.
If desired, you can also serve them in bread bowls.
It is believed that the New England style of chowder was introduced to the region by French, Nova Scotian, or British settlers and became a common dish in the area by the 1700s. The soup continued to gain popularity throughout the years and was being served in Boston at Ye Olde Union Oyster House (the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country) by 1836.
Manhattan clam chowder is most often recognized by its red color, coming from the use of tomatoes and tomato paste. The broth is much thinner than the thick New England version, also includes potatoes and in most places, boast a variety of vegetables like carrots, celery, onion, and garlic for added flavor.
Then there is the other kind of clam chowder which is made from clear broth of clam juice. This is less common and I have not actually seen or tried this. Needless to say, clam chowder is a well-loved soup here in the US and different states have their own version of it. I hope you enjoy this version that I presented here and let me know how it turns out. Cheers!
Kain Na! (Let’s Eat).